Harry Whittaker
Revelation - A Biblical Approach

Chapter 19 - The First Four Trumpets: The Last Days (8:7-13)

Once again the reminder is necessary that the application of this part of Revelation to the First Century is a much easier proposition than the interpretation of it with reference to the end of the age. That it should be so applied hardly admits of doubt. The evidence already submitted is adequate to shew this. And there is plenty more to follow. But even if the student is reasonably sure that he is interpreting the symbols according to Biblical usage (and some doubt regarding this is not unseemly now and then), to use these Scriptures in order to anticipate events still in the future is an exceedingly precarious business, never to be attempted with any degree of confidence, much less of dogmatism. So this chapter is necessarily a mixture of Biblical illustration and surmise as to its outworking.

The events described in these Trumpets are the results of great clouds of incense coming up before God. These are like thc importunate prayers of the widow in the parable (Luke 18:1-8), for Jesus was careful to set that exhortation, that “men pray and not faint”, in a context which is all about his Second Coming (17:20-37; 18:8).

The outcome of these prayers - “voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake” - are described once again in Revelation 16:18, where the setting belongs (past all argument) to the Last Days. The words describe a mighty theophany, as at Sinai (Exodus 19:16, 18), and also the titanic effects of God’s judgement, as this evil generation will yet experience them.

This angel, casting fire to the earth, and the seven trumpet-blowers with him suggest the “seven shepherds and eight principal men” who are to “waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrance thereof: and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders” (Micah 5: 5, 6).


The Biblical evidences of a final desolation of Israel in the Last Days need not be repeated here. But this Micah passage seems to imply that when the Land is overrun, the enemy of Israel will be punished there in the very place where his triumph has been most complete and savage.

But, since, equally plainly, the final judgements of God are to be visited on the whole earth, it would be unwise to insist on a restricted reference of these Trumpets to the Land of Israel only, or even to the countries round about Israel.

It is rather remarkable that the language of the First Trumpet - “hail and fire mingled with blood” - is used in Isaiah, first to describe the “overflowing scourge” with which God afflicted His wayward people, and then even more powerfully regarding the divine deliverance which He provided for the sake of the faithful remnant in the days of Hezekiah (28:2; 30:30). The counterpart to this in the day of Christ is not difficult to discern.

The destruction of trees was seen to have both a literal and a figurative element. All who have any interest in the developing state of Israel have been impressed with the efficient and industrious way in which the mountainsides are being re-planted, so that within a generation barrenness has been replaced by maturing forests. In a way it is sad to think that these splendid attempts to re-clothe the nakedness of the hills of Israel are all to be brought to nought, but their present glory and promise is of small account compared with what is to be when the verdant splendour of the Holy Land is renewed by the blessing of Heaven (Isaiah 35:1, 2).

However, the more fundamental application of this Trumpet will be in a manner comparable to the fulfilment of Christ’s own figure of “green tree and dry tree” - in the nation of Israel, all being alike destined for “burning” (Luke 23:31; cp. Jeremiah 7:20).


The “great mountain burning with fire” has already been given good Biblical reference to the downfall of Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70. Today, in the place of the temple, on the very site, stands the Moslem Dome of the Rock. How the fanatical forces of hyper-orthodox Jewry would love to see that centre of false religion burnt to the ground. Yet they dare not attempt it. But it is readily conceivable that the confusion of some acute Israel-Arab crisis in the near future might well provide the excuse or the cover for their incendiarism. This is only a guess. The fulfilment of this vivid symbol may take a completely different form, with more immediate relevance to the destruction of life and ships in the sea. Judgement on the ships of Tarshish is a distinctive feature of certain prophecies (Isaiah 2:16; Psalm 48:7).

Amos 7:4 has a very remarkable allusion (in the context of “locusts;” see the Fifth Trumpet) to “the Lord God contending by fire ... and it devoured the great deep, and would have eaten up the Land (R.V.)” - LXX: “the Lord’s portion.” It is difficult to say how the primary fulfilment of this prophecy came about. A giant meteorite falling into the Sea of Galilee? It goes on to foretell that “the high places of Isaac (where Isaac was offered - the Rock!) shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste.”

Zephaniah has the same association of ideas: “I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and will bring the wicked to their knees (N.E.B.) ... and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place (the temple)” (1:3, 4).


It is important to observe that all the first five trumpets find the source and origin of their dramatic action in the sky:

  1. Hail and fire mingled with blood cast upon the earth.
  2. A burning mountain cast into the sea.
  3. The falling of a great star burning like a lamp.
  4. Sun, moon and stars smitten; unnatural darkness.
  5. A star fallen from heaven to earth. This is introduced by an angel flying in mid-heaven.

There may or may not be connection between these features and the fact that between them Russia and America have something like a thousand pieces of hardware orbiting this globe. Of course almost nothing is known publicly about the purpose of this mighty army of sputniks - “the host of the high ones on high” (Isaiah 24:21) - but it may be taken as certain that many (most?) of them have a much more sinister purpose than that of harmless highly useful telecommunications. And it is readily conceivable that in the heat of a Jew-Arab crisis Russia may not be loth to use Israel as a guinea-pig regarding some of these scientific toys in the way that America used Japan at the end of World War II, and has more recently used Vietnam.

The “great star falling from heaven, burning as a lamp,” is perhaps to be understood as a reference to the Star of David, which is now known in all the world as the symbol of the state of Israel. In modern times, Israel has let go all hope of the appearance of a divine Messiah, and has blasphemously substituted itself instead as the Messianic State and Nation. So it would not be inappropriate that there should be a dramatic rebuke of such a perversion of Old Testament truth. The figure of a falling star is the more fitting by contrast with the true Messiah, the “Bright and Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).

On the other hand, if the Third Trumpet is to have a less restricted application than this, the effect of turning all the waters to bitterness may well be one of the fiendish ideas of modern war, which has already been seriously explored. Dumping a large consignment of LSD in a city reservoir would be a trivial school-boy joke by comparison. There could be no easier way of winning a war than by poisoning the enemy’s water supply overnight.

The darkening of sun, moon and stars may similarly have a more literal fulfilment than has been thought possible hitherto. At the crucifixion of Jesus there was a period of unnatural darkness. Several Scriptures suggest the possibility of a similar phenomenon when he comes again (Zechariah 14:6; Joel 2:2; Matthew 24:29; Isaiah 5:30). Again one is left guessing as to the means by which this might come about, whether by natural causes-such as the dense pall of smoke from the burning forests or from volcanic eruptions- or by supernatural means as at the crucifixion.


On this theme Isaiah 13 is specially impressive. Misled by the opening verse, commentators generally have sought to apply the whole of this prophecy to Babylon. In fact, most of it (v. 2-16?) refers primarily to God’s judgement on Israel brought through the instrumentality of the Assyrians (often called Babylon in Isaiah). Only at verse 17 does the wrath of the Lord turn to “punish the stout heart of the king of Assyria” (10:12); “Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands faint, and every man’s heart shall melt (this is Luke 21:26): and they shall be afraid: pangs of sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth (this is Paul’s figure of the day of the Lord, in 1 Thessalonians 5: 2, 3) ... For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine (the Fourth Trumpet) ... Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place (Revelation 8:5), in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and in the day of his fierce anger ... their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished (this is Zechariah 14:2)” (Isaiah 13:6-16).

Thus the Fourth Trumpet is seen as an integral part of the impressive drama of events in the end of the age. It presents an ominous picture of the eclipse of Israel, to be followed - as one Messianic prophecy after another makes clear-by a breath-taking rehabilitation when the King of Israel sits on his throne.

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