Three Woes Announced

THE FLYING EAGLE IN MIDAIR (8:13) announces three woes that correspond to the three final trumpet judgments (9:12; 11:14; 10:1-16:21). This cry introduces the grievous nature of what is coming. Is the eagle to be taken literally as Balaam’s donkey that talked (Numbers 22:28-30) or an angel? The Textus Receptus and other manuscripts have angel instead of eagle. It seems more likely scribes would have changed eagle to angel than vice versa.

The eagle, the strongest of birds, appears as a symbol of God’s retribution in Jeremiah 48:40, where the LORD describes King Nebuchadnezzar as an eagle swooping down, spreading its wings over Moab.

Historicists believe the eagle is an angel announcing the end of the Western Roman Empire.

Preterists believe the three vows refer to the destruction of Jerusalem: the first woe is the seditions among the Jews themselves; the second, the besieging of the city by the Romans, and the third is the capture of the city and burning of the Temple.

Idealists make no separation since they see the judgments repeating throughout history.

Futurists see the announcement itself as more important than the one who announces.

First Four Trumpets

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Idealists say this destruction repeats through this age but the command not to affect the trees is no longer in force.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.

Seven Angels with Seven Trumpets


Historicists identify the trumpets as a series of invasions against the Roman Empire by Vandals, Huns, Saraens, and Turks. The sixth trumpet brings the fall of Constantinople to the Turks (A.D. 1453).

Preterists insist the first four trumpets correspond to disasters inflicted by the Romans on Jews in the Jewish War (A.D. 66-70). The fifth trumpet depicts the demonic spirits rendering the besieged Jews irrational and self-destructive. The sixth trumpet refers to the Roman armies, who destroyed Jerusalem and slaughtered or deported all the Jews.

Idealists see the seven trumpets like the plagues of Egypt befalling sinful humanity many times in history, demonstrating God’s displeasure.

Futurists view either literally or symbolically the seven trumpets as coming judgments upon the earth during the Tribulation.

SEVEN ANGELS WITH SEVEN TRUMPETS (8:2). Names of seven archangels, who stand before the Throne, are stated in the noncanonical book of Enoch 20:2-8: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel, and Remiel. Beware Enoch is not an inspired writing. We read in Luke 1:19 that the angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God.”

Notice the article in verse 2: “I saw the seven angels who stand before God.” These are not just any ordinary angels, but the seven angels who administer the judgments of God. While the seven seals are opened by the Lamb, the judgments of the seven trumpets and the seven bowls are executed by seven angels. This commentator holds that the seven trumpets are part of the seventh seal and the seven bowels are part of the seventh trumpet.

This scene is reminiscent of Battle of Jericho.

The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding (Joshua 6:13).

Seven blasts on seven trumpets, by seven priests, after a sevenfold march on the seventh day, meant the fall of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. Here are seven blasts on seven trumpets by seven angels on the seventh week of Daniel that will send the world ruled by Satan crashing to its end.

TRUMPETS are assigned to angels in Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:52; and Revelation 4:1, 4. Trumpets are the most used musical instrument in the Bible, appearing over one-hundred twenty-five times, for many purposes. Trumpets were used to (1) declare war; (2) assemble the people; (3) proclaim great events such as the festivals and the Year of Jubilee; (4) announce the arrival of kings; (5) hail the fall of cities; and (6) show the presence, majesty and power of God. In Revelation, trumpets primarily announce impending judgment. In a unique sense, every one of the foregoing purposes is present in these seven trumpets.

The seven trumpet judgments are of greater intensity than the seal judgments. Six trumpets finish the first three and one half years of the Tribulation; the seventh begins the last half of this period. Others think the first trumpet begins the second half or Great Tribulation. The timing and length of each is indefinite, except the effect of the fifth trumpet judgment, which will last five months (9:10).

ANGEL WITH THE GOLDEN CENSER (8:3-5). Some identify this angel as Christ. In the OT, the preincarnate Christ is called the Angel of the LORD and the angel of His presence (Genesis 16:7; Isaiah 63:9). The smoke of the incense epitomizes the prayers of the saints for the vengeance of the LORD.

Here is a beautiful picture of an OT practice. Every morning and evening, the priests would use a golden censer to put incense on the altar of incense in front of the second curtain of the Tabernacle or Temple. Behind this curtain was the Most Holy Place into which only the High Priest could go once a year to intercede for the nation.

Smoke from the incense concealed the atonement cover above the Testimony, so that the High Priest would not die on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 11-15). In Revelation 8, the Throne is exposed and it is no longer a place of mercy.

This angel does not act like any ordinary priest for he replaces the prayers mingled with smoke with fire from the altar and hurls the golden censer on the earth, signifying God’s vengeance has begun on behalf of the martyred saints. This was accompanied by peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

The Silence in Heaven

THE LAMB OPENS THE SEVENTH SEAL (8:1). When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Historicists identify the silence as the time the 144,000 are sealed along with the destruction of Jerusalem when no complaints in heaven are heard.

Preterists see the silence as no more complaints being heard in heaven.

Idealists view heaven in awestruck silence, anticipating the completion of God’s purposes. The silence in heaven is the lull before the storm.

Futurists hold the silence may be compared with the silence before the foreman of a jury reports the verdict.
The seventh seal is not a judgment but the commencement of another chain of God and the Lamb’s wrath.

Within this seal is contained the seven trumpets and seven bowl judgments (Revelation 8:2-19:10). The silence is the quiet before the storm (cf. 8:5); like a Sabbath pause.