Trumpets played an important role in the life of God’s people. They are always a symbol of God’s intervention in human history. In the life of the Jews, trumpets were used in various ways:
- Announce ceremonial processions (Joshua 6:4, 13–16; 1 Kings 1:34, 39; 1 Chronicles 15:24)
- Assemble the Israelites for war, journeys, and special feasts (Numbers 10:9–10)
- Announce the new year (Numbers 29:1)
- Regather Israel at the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 24:31)
- Announce the Rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 5:51-52)
The trumpets of Revelation 8 (the first four trumpet judgments) announce divine judgments during the day of the Lord (Zechariah 1:14–16). They are blasts of war—specifically, God’s war against the world.
The first four trumpet judgments, which come in short, rapid, staccato blasts, target the natural world—directed against the land, the sea, the rivers, and the heavenly bodies. The destruction is not total. This is only a prelude to the end.
1. The First Trumpet: Fire on Earth (Revelation 8:7)
The first trumpet is against earth’s vegetation using hail and fire mixed with blood. Whatever this hail and fire are from, the results are devastating. A third of the earth is burned up along with the trees.
It is estimated that there are three trillion trees in the world. If forest fires consumed a third of them, 990 billion trees would be destroyed. The amount of smoke and ash sent into the atmosphere would be unimaginable, as would the death of woodland creatures.
As if torching one third of the world’s trees weren’t enough, the first trumpet judgment will also destroy “all the green grass,” which would cause topsoil to erode. During rainy seasons massive mudslides would race down mountains and hills, wiping out neighborhoods and businesses, and cutting off roads. During arid seasons, great walls of dust—haboobs, which can engulf whole cities—would blow across nations and continents, and drought would parch the earth.
It is by the command of God that this present earth is being kept from destruction, but it will also be by the command of God that the environment will be totally destroyed.
2. The Second Trumpet: Blood in the Sea (Revelation 8:8-9)
The second trumpet targets the oceans. Whether the seas become actual blood, become a blood-like substance, or simply looked like blood is difficult to determine from the text (Exodus 7:20–21; Psalm 78:42–44; Joel 2:31; Zephaniah 1:3). Apparently, there is only one iron molecule that separates seawater from blood. It could be that the fiery “mountain” mentioned—a meteor, if that’s what it is—will change the chemical composition of the sea and turn the water into literal blood.
Regardless, John said, “a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died” (Revelation 8:9). No one knows the exact number of sea creatures living in our oceans, but the number of species has been estimated between 700,000 and one million. When a third of these creatures die, at least 231,000 species will suddenly disappear.
“A third of the ships” will also be “destroyed.” If a large meteor hit one of the oceans, it would cause devastating tidal waves and tsunamis, swamping ships sailing on the high seas, as well as those docked in ports. In 2018, there were 53,000 registered merchant ships worldwide. Not counting warships or privately owned sea-going vessels, 17,490 ships will be sent to the bottom of the ocean, disrupting global trade and creating security concerns around the world when the naval power of various nations has been destroyed.
3. The Third Trumpet: Contamination of Fresh Water (Revelation 8:10-11)
The third trumpet focuses on fresh water. Scripture refers to a “great star [falling] from heaven, burning like a torch” (Revelation 8:10). It’s best to interpret this as a meteor or a comet that leaves a trail of fire as it races across the sky. This burning “star” affects “a third of the rivers and springs of water” (Revelation 8:10)—fresh water used for human and animal consumption. There are approximately 165 major rivers in the world, and untold numbers of creeks and streams. But if just a third of the rivers were to suddenly become undrinkable, 55 river systems could no longer be used as a water sources.
John wrote that the fresh water would become “wormwood” because the “star” that will fall to the earth will be named “Wormwood” (8:11). “Wormwood” was the general name of bitter herbs known as artemisia. It produced a noxious taste, but was rarely fatally poisonous. But here, the wormwood doesn’t just affect the taste of the water; it actually poisons it.
4. The Fourth Trumpet: Darkness of the Heavenly Bodies (Revelation 8:12)
The fourth trumpet affected the sun, stars, and moon. The text seems to imply that God will reduce the intensity of the light from the sun, moon, and stars by one-third (Matthew 7:45). Or He might reduce the total hours of daylight and nightlight by a third—“the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night the same way” (Revelation 8:12).
However the judgment of the fourth trumpet is accomplished, the reduction in sunlight or sunlight hours will have devastating consequences on the environment. Today, everyone is concerned about global warming. During the tribulation, they will be concerned about global cooling.
The darkness will also cause widespread terror, resulting in anarchy, rioting, looting, and other more violent crimes. No amount of government aid from individual countries or the United Nations, or relief efforts from the Red Cross or another other organization will be able to bring recovery.
But the worst is yet to come.
God’s judgment is coming on those who have made earth their home. These are people who are completely centered on the things of the earth—their families, their jobs, their cars, their homes, their vacations, their wants and desires, their pains and pleasures. Their entire lives revolve around these things, and because of that they neglect the things of God. They are temporally minded, not eternally minded, they are earthly-minded, not heavenly-minded.
What about you? One of the greatest indications of your future eternal destination is your present focus.