THE FIRST TRUMPET: HAIL AND FIRE MIXED WITH BLOOD (8:6-7). Hail is always used of judgment. The seventh Egyptian plague of hail of Exodus 9:13-32, was literal hail. In 1921, in Chech Shae, Yunnan, China, fire and hail mingled with blood fell over the countryside.
What is meant by a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up? Literally, it means a third of the earth’s vegetation is destroyed.
Historicists and Preterists say this destruction is the result of warfare.
Idealists say this destruction repeats through this age but the command not to affect the trees is no longer in force.
Futurists, who do take the vegetation symbolically, say the green things are symbols of agricultural and commercial prosperity. Others interpret the third part of the world to be the Western confederation of nations, the trees to be great men and leaders, and the grass to be ordinary people.
THE SECOND TRUMPET: A HUGE MOUNTAIN THROWN INTO THE SEA (8:8-9). Something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea sounds like a huge meteor or asteroid, which would have a devastating effect on those who live in countries that depend upon the fishing industry. This is reminiscent of the first plague on Egypt, where the waters were turned to blood (Exodus 7:14-21).
Historicists see the Vandals (A.D. 428-468) under their king Genseric, to whom historians refer as “the Tyrant of the Sea” as this huge mountain.
Preterists hold the burning of Jerusalem (Mt. Zion) is the mountain ablaze; the casting into the sea is the scattering of the Jews into the nations.
Idealists take the imagery to mean the fall of powers like Babylon (Jeremiah 51:15, 42) or the eruption of a volcano, like Vesuvius in A.D. 70.
Futurists either take the mountain to be the Revived Roman Empire and the sea as the nations or a huge rock of combustible gases that ignites as it enters the atmosphere. In the OT, mountains can symbolize nations and kingdoms (Isaiah 2:2; Zechariah 4:7; Psalm 46:2; Jeremiah 51:25; Daniel 2:35).
THE THIRD TRUMPET: THE STAR WORMWOOD (8:10-11). This is the opposite of the bitter water of Marah that was turned sweet (Exodus 15:22-25). Drinking water is the greatest shortage in the world. A reduction of one-third of the drinking water will result in the death of many people, even if the water is not poisoned. The wormwood plant has a strong bitter taste, which is an OT symbol for bitterness and sorrow.
He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall [wormwood] (Lamentations 3:15).
You who turn justice into bitterness [wormwood] and cast righteousness to the ground (Amos 5:7).
Wormwood is God’s judgment on those who disobey Him. It is the bitter taste of death.
Historicists view wormwood as Attila the Hun and his eight hundred thousand men upon the banks of the Danube. It is estimated that three hundred thousand were slaughtered in the rivers, resulting in disease and death from drinking the water.
Preterists hold the bitterness is from decaying corpses in the Sea of Galilee.
Idealists see pollution from flooding, industry, commerce, etc.
Futurists connect the fire of the first three trumpets from the angel hurling the golden censer to earth. Wormwood represents the religious-political realm under a personage, such as the Pope, or papal like religious system. In the Scriptures, the Godhead is referred to seven times as “living water” (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; Zechariah 14:8; John 4:10-11; 7:38; Revelation 22:17), but many people drink of Satan’s deceits and die (Proverbs 9:17-18).
THE FOURTH TRUMPET: THIRD OF SUN, MOON, STARS STRUCK (8:12-13). When Christ suffered and died for our sins, there was darkness over the earth from noon to three on Passover A.D. 33 (Matthew 27:45). Darkness is the appropriate judgment for those who love the darkness and hate the Light (John 3:19). All the natural light sources are struck by this judgment: sun, moon, and stars, which have been consistently used by pagan religions as objects of worship (Deuteronomy 4:19). The darkness upon the earth is reminiscent of the ninth plague on Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23). This plague showed that Ra, the sun god, was nothing! Yahweh alone is to be worshiped.
Jesus predicted “there will be signs in the sun, moon and stars” at the end of the age (Luke 21:25) and the OT prophets foretold this coming day of darkness before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD (Isaiah 13:10; Jeremiah 4:23; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:31; 3:15; Amos 5:20). Hence, Jesus speaks of the end of the Tribulation when He returns so this darkness occurs during the Tribulation.
Historicists view the sun, moon, and stars as the political firmament of Rome and the collapse of the Western emperors in A.D. 476.
Preterists see the heavenly bodies as the deaths of Roman emperors by murder or suicide along with the leading High Priests in Jerusalem, who perished in disgrace, or exile, or by violent hands.
Idealists also see this trumpet as the fall of Rome.
Futurists that symbolize this occurrence see the darkness as a reduction of the light of the Gospel during this period. Those of a non-symbolic view hold to an eclipse that extends to a third part of the day and a third part of the night, shortening the day-night cycle (cf. Matthew 24:22). The pollution from preceding trumpets may have caused a portion of the sun, moon, and stars to be blotted out.
If non-symbolic, the first four trumpet judgments have to do with plagues affecting vegetation, seas, rivers, and heavenly bodies. The last three affect not the material, but the moral creation.