Introduction to the Trumpet Judgements
The Trumpet Judgements are a retelling of the ten Egyptian plagues of Exodus. The first four are directed at the earth. The next two (five and six) are directed towards the earth-dwellers, and the last one symbolizes the end. They are an intensification of the Seals. Osborne*** (Pg. 349). Beale* sees the trumpets as a retelling of the Egyptian plagues, but goes further by saying that the trumpet judgements work in the same way as the Egyptian plagues, that is as judgements against idolatry, unbelief, and persecution against God’s people. Just as the Egyptian plagues were poured out on the “hardened” Egyptians, so will the judgements be poured out on the “hardened” unbelievers at the end. (Pgs. 463-472).
Just as the children of Israel cried out to God and judgements were delivered to Egypt, judgements are delivered to the unbelievers who persecute the believers after they cry out, “How long?”
6 And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets1 prepared them so that they may sound them.2
7 And the first trumpet sounded, and there came hail and fire mixed3 with blood and it was thrown down upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees4 were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.5
8 And the second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a great mountain6 burning with fire was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, 9 and the third of the living7 creatures in the sea8 died and a third of the ships were destroyed.9
10 And the third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star fell from the sky10 burning like a torch.11 It fell on a third of the rivers and springs of water. 11 And the name of the star is called “Bitter”12 and a third of the waters became bitter13. Many people14 died from the waters because they became bitter.15
12 And the fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars were stricken16, so that a third of them turned dark. And a third of the day17 should not shine and the night likewise.18
1 οἱ ἔχοντες τὰς ἑπτὰ σάλπιγγας (who had the seven trumpets)
Greek: “the ones who had the seven trumpets”.
2 Mounce** sees the raising of the trumpets in preparation to sound them as an action that would heighten the sense of expectancy. (Pg. 183).
A different Greek word is used to convey the idea of the trumpets sounding that is to come. The angels draw breath in response to the command to make ready.
sal-pid'-zo From G4536; to trumpet , that is, sound a blast (literally or figuratively): - (which are yet to) sound (a trumpet).
3 μεμιγμένα (mixed)
Greek: “having been mixed”. The participle is in the perfect tense.
It is the blood of Jesus which allows salvation to be offered and the seals to be broken.
4 Mounce** sees the trees here as being fruit trees as they would have been important in living in 1st century Israel. (Pg. 185).
5 The first trumpet is an allusion to the seventh plague in Exodus 9:13-35. The addition of “fire” may come from Joel 2:30-31. The “blood” addition may stem from volcanic eruptions in the Aegean islands in the first century. It was said that eruptions turned the sky red. Osborne*** (Pgs. 350-351). Mounce** (Pgs. 184-185) agrees on the allusions, but not on the Aegean islands volcanic eruptions. Beale* also sees an allusion to Ezekiel 5:2, 12 where Israel is divided in thirds and each third is judged. He also sees a connection between the first trumpet and the third seal as both representing famine. (Pgs. 472-275). Beale* also holds to the idea that all of the imagery in the Apocalypse is figurative as the trumpet judgements are based in imagery from the OT. (Pg. 476).
6 The key here is “something like” a great mountain. There are many explanations as to what it could be. The most viable option may be a meteor. The image of Artemis in the temple at Ephesus was thought to be a meteorite. In ancient times, meteors were a sign of action on the part of the gods. Osborne*** (Pgs. 352-353).
A mountain was also a symbol of power and might. It was on a mountain that God spoke to Moses. Mountains are used to represent kingdoms and powers on earth. It was in high places that idol worship often took place.
It symbolizes obstacles as well.
7 τὰ ἔχοντα ψυχὰς (living)
Greek: “the ones who had life”.
8 τῶν ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ (in the sea)
Greek: “who were in the sea”.
9 The second trumpet is a loose allusion to the first Egyptian plague in Exodus 7:14-21. Instead of Moses’ staff being the instrument in which God turns the water into blood, here he uses something the size of a mountain. It is worthy to mention a NT parallel here. In Mark 11:23, Jesus says that faith can move a mountain and make the mountain throw itself into the sea.
It can be noted that in Mark 11:23 mountain is singular and has with it a definite article. This would appear to be a particular mountain. Peter had just pointed out the withered fig tree that Jesus cursed. Jesus responds in verse 22, “have faith in God”. NIV study notes mention the Mount of Olives is in view. It is the Mount of Olives that will split open one day as the feet of the Lord touch down outside Jerusalem.
The 1st century reader would have seen utter devastation in this passage. The Roman Empire only thrived as long as the ships at sea were transporting food and goods. Osborne*** (Pgs. 354).
10 ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (from the sky)
or “from heaven”. The same Greek word means both “heaven” or “sky”.
11 Beale* states that the imagery comes from Isaiah 14:12-15 where Babylon’s king is falling from heaven and is thrust down to Sheol (ᾅδου/ Hades in LXX. Both Sheol [Hebrew] and Hades [Greek] are “the place where the dead go”). Beale states that this imagery is tied to the upcoming “the great city, Babylon” in chapters 11-19. (Pgs. 476-479).
Isaiah 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.
This is often ascribed to Satan and is at the very essence of rebellion: “I” instead of God.
12 ὁ Ἄψινθος (Bitter)
or “Bitterness” or “Wormwood”. Wormwood was an extremely bitter plant. It gets the name english name “wormwood” because it was used medically to treat and kill intestinal worms. Here, the plant is used idiomatically as “bitter”. In the OT, wormwood is a symbol of bitterness. Mounce** (Pg. 187).
This is given as the name of the star that falls from heaven. How the word bitter might accurately describe one, Satan, who fell from such a high place and explain his persistence in a losing battle. Many times only bitterness and revenge explain actions that are otherwise inexplicable.
13 εἰς ἄψινθον (bitter)
Greek: “into bitter” or “into bitterness”. The waters didn’t turn into the bitter plant, they became bitter like the plant. Wormwood was not poisonous, so the imagery here is directed at the bitterness of the plant.
Acts 8:23 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”
Matthew 27:34 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it.
Jesus would not drink of the bitterness offered. He was tempted, yet did not yield to temptation. He was tested and learned obedience. This is what He expects from you and I.
14 πολλοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων (many people)
Greek: “many of the men”.
15 The third trumpet also loosely follows the 1st Egyptian plague except here, a meteor falls on the inland waters.
16 ἐπλήγη (were stricken)
ἐπλήγη is the verb from of πληγή (plague) or (blow). It actually means
that the sun, the moon, and stars were darkened by a plague.
17 ἡ ἡμέρα... τὸ τρίτον αὐτῆς (a third of the day)
Greek: “The day... a third of it”. The verb μὴ φάνῃ (should not shine) appears between this. The passage could be translated, “The day should not shine, a third of it”.
Darkness results from not choosing the light. Night and day have both diminished, for the plague has struck the sun, moon, and stars.
18 The fourth trumpet is an allusion to the ninth Egyptian plague of total darkness, but here it is only “total” darkness for a third of the day and a third of the night. Darkness represents a symbol of judgement in the OT. Mounce** (Pg. 188).
NT = New Testament
OT = Old Testament
ESV = English Standard Version
NASB = New American Standard Bible
NIV = New International Version
KJV = King James Version
TR = Textus Receptus (A late Byzantine Greek text of the NT. A
predecessor of the TR was used in the translation of the KJV)
LXX = Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT)
The Greek New Testament with Greek-English Dictionary B. Aland (Editor), K. Aland (Editor), J. Karavidopoulos (Editor), B. M. Metzger (Editor), C. M. Martini (Editor)
(BDAG) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition Walter Bauer (Author), Frederick William Danker (Editor)
A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament Bruce M. Metzger
(Kittel) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (VOLUMES 1-10) Gerhard Kittel (Editor), Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Translator)
*The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.).) G. K. Beale
**The Book of Revelation (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) Robert H. Mounce
***Revelation (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Grant R. Osborne
+Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics Daniel B. Wallace
++An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek C. F. D. Moule
+++Biblical Greek (Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici) Maximilian Zerwick
A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament Max Zerwick (Author), Mary Grosvenor (Author)
Ἀποκάλυψις 8·6 Καὶ οἱ ἑπτὰ ἄγγελοι οἱ ἔχοντες τὰς ἑπτὰ σάλπιγγας ἡτοίμασαν αὐτοὺς ἵνα σαλπίσωσιν. Ἀποκάλυψις 8·7 Καὶ ὁ πρῶτος ἐσάλπισεν· καὶ ἐγένετο χάλαζα καὶ πῦρ μεμιγμένα ἐν αἵματι καὶ ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν γῆν, καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῆς γῆς κατεκάη καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν δένδρων κατεκάη καὶ πᾶς χόρτος χλωρὸς κατεκάη.
Ἀποκάλυψις 8·8 Καὶ ὁ δεύτερος ἄγγελος ἐσάλπισεν· καὶ ὡς ὄρος μέγα πυρὶ καιόμενον ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν, καὶ ἐγένετο τὸ τρίτον τῆς θαλάσσης αἷμα 9 καὶ ἀπέθανεν τὸ τρίτον τῶν κτισμάτων τῶν ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ τὰ ἔχοντα ψυχὰς καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν πλοίων διεφθάρησαν. Ἀποκάλυψις 8·10 Καὶ ὁ τρίτος ἄγγελος ἐσάλπισεν· καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἀστὴρ μέγας καιόμενος ὡς λαμπὰς καὶ ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν ποταμῶν καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς πηγὰς τῶν ὑδάτων, 11 καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ ἀστέρος λέγεται ὁ Ἄψινθος, καὶ ἐγένετο τὸ τρίτον τῶν ὑδάτων εἰς ἄψινθον καὶ πολλοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀπέθανον ἐκ τῶν ὑδάτων ὅτι ἐπικράνθησαν.
Ἀποκάλυψις 8·12 Καὶ ὁ τέταρτος ἄγγελος ἐσάλπισεν· καὶ ἐπλήγη τὸ τρίτον τοῦ ἡλίου καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῆς σελήνης καὶ τὸ τρίτον τῶν ἀστέρων, ἵνα σκοτισθῇ τὸ τρίτον αὐτῶν καὶ ἡ ἡμέρα μὴ φάνῃ τὸ τρίτον αὐτῆς καὶ ἡ νὺξ ὁμοίως.