John uses the most descriptive terms he could possibly use to describe the severity of these upheavals in heaven and earth. We can easily imagine the types of geological events that might cause such phenomena. A great earth quake shakes the entire world, and volcanic eruptions spew ash and gas into the atmosphere, veiling the sun like a burlap cloth. Putrid air distorts the color of the moon, and the heavens rain down meteors.
The dreadful seal judgments unfold in Revelation 6:1-8, while the more intense trumpet judgments resound through Revelation 8:7-9:21 and Revelation 11:15-19. The Bowl Judgments (the wrath of God) are the most sever and cataclysmic of all and appear in Revelation
In Revelation 6:1-2 we notice that, with the first seal, there is a rider on a white horse that comes forth with a bow and a crown on his head. The rider on the white horse represents a bloodless conquest – false peace and security. He carries a bow without arrows. The type of crown on his head is the stephanos, a word which does not suggest regale authority but a victor’s crown. Tribulation will begin with a deceptive peace, and it will be accompanied by a counterfeit and false religion.
Immediately after the rider on the white horse promises peace and security, the rider on the red horse breaks the promise. The red color symbolizes the fire and blood of war. Rather than an arrowless bow symbolizing the mere threat of conflict from a distance, this dreaded rider carries a sword. And this sword is not the rhomphaia of order and justice that comes from the mouth of Christ (Revelation 1:16, 2:12, 16) but the machaira of assignations, insurrection, and warfare.
After the beckoning of the third living creature, John watches a black horse leap fourth. As this symbol of famine and poverty that results from warfare comes into view, desolation and despair wraps their tentacles around the world. The measuring scales and the voice shouting out the prices indicate that this period of time will be characterized by inflation and starvation.
5 When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come " I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
6 And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine."
One commentator writes:
The price listed here are about eight times the average prices in the Roam Empire at the time…. Therefore, those suffering from the famine will only be able to buy limited food quantities for their family, and there will be nothing left over to provide for any of the other necessities of life such as “wine and oil”.
With the opening of the fourth seal, the fourth horseman charges into John’s view. The Greek word describing its color is chloros, a yellowish green, this sickly color of illness and death. In this macabre, terrifying scene, John saw what we know as the grim reaper moving across the earth. Death steals the body while Hades consumes the soul. This symbolizes the massive number of deaths that will follow the first three horsemen. One-quarter of the world’s population will be lost to their rampage.
As we try to come to terms with the severity of these judgments, we must remember that all of the wars, pestilence, death, and destruction throughout history pale in comparison to the out pouring of God’s wrath. And we should also keep in mind that these first four seals of judgment are merely the beginning. The worst is yet to come.
When Jesus broke the fifth seal on the scroll, John saw no more horsemen as he had with the first four seals. This time the scene involved people who had been killed because they insisted on a faithful proclamation of and obedience to the Word of God (Revelation 6:9). They had loyally testified to the world that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was their Savior. As a result the forces of evil had taken their earthly lives in an effort to silence this testimony. This is not the killing of those who refuse the mark of the beast. That will occur after the midway point of tribulation which is a period known as Great Tribulation.
The nature of the fifth seal is the cry of the martyrs to God, asking for His judgment and vengeance to be poured out on those responsible for their deaths (Revelation 6:10). God hears their prayers for vengeance and assures them that vindication against their slayers is certain (Revelation 6:11). The prayer of the persecuted for judgment has a recognized influence in bringing about end-time happenings, as Luke 18:7 tells us:
"Will not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?"
People on Earth have had a taste of suffering under the first four seals, but the worst for them is yet to come under the sixth and seventh seals. From a human perspective the prayers of the souls under the altar made the rebels’ dismal future even more frightening. The intercession of those precious to God seals the doom of those on Earth with even more certainly. Herein lays the awful impact of the fifth seal.
When Jesus opened the sixth seal, John saw a massive earthquake, the blackening of the sun, the reddening of the moon, falling stars, the separation of the sky into parts, and the moving of mountains and islands from their normal places (Revelation 6:12-14). Following a description of the physical catastrophes comes a description of the panic among kings of the earth, chieftains, military commanders, the rich, the strong, every slave, and every free person (Revelation 6:15-17)
It is easy to think in terms of the awfulness of the Great Tribulation which will be the last three and one half years of Tribulation and over look just how bad the first three and one half years of Tribulation will be. If anything, the sixth seal should give us a sobering perspective on both the first and second halves of Tribulation.
The breaking of the seventh seal will now usher in the trumpet judgments which will also be an escalation in devastation and suffering on an unbelieving Earth.
The first four trumpets continue the judgment of God with a stepped-up intensity as compared to the first six seals. These first four judgments direct their affliction against natural objects such as the earth, trees, grass, sea, and rivers. These are the judgments held back in Revelation 7:3 until the completion of the sealing of God’s servants.
The First Trumpet (Revelation 8:7)
"And the first sounded; and hail and fire mixed with blood came, and were cast into the earth; and the third part of the earth was burned up, and the third part of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up."
History has recorded upheavals of nature similar to this plague, but none has been nearly as awful as this. To interpret this language as symbolic is futile since the trumpet visitations so closely parallel five or six plagues that the Lord sent against Egypt in Moses’ day. The Old Testament prophets understood that the miracles of Egypt were to be repeated in the future (see, for example, Isaiah 10:22-25; Isaiah 11:12-16; Isaiah
30:30; Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 23:7-8; Ezekial 38:22; Micah 7:15). In a way similar to God’s judgment against Egypt, the first trumpet as well as those to follow will directly impact the world of nature, creating extremely distressing conditions for people living on earth.
When hail and fire mixed with blood fall on the earth, the results will be threefold. The first will be the burning of significant portions of earth’s vegetation just as hail in a comparable Egyptian plague destroyed the vegetation of Egypt (Exodus 9:25). The second result will be the destruction of trees such as fruit trees that are so important to life in Israel, Asia Minor, and the world. The third result will be the burning of "all the green grass." The fact that some green grass is left at the time of the fifth trumpet (Revelation
9:4) is no contradiction
to the prediction here. Either the time lapse between the first and fifth trumpets will be sufficient for grass to re-grow, or the first trumpet will not affect the dormant grass, which will eventually return after the period of dormancy ends. Either possibility allows for the "all" in this case to be taken literally without being contradicted by Revelation 9:4.
The Second Trumpet (Revelation 8:8-9)
"And the second angel sounded; and [something] like a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood, and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, which had life, died, and the third part of the ships were destroyed."
Here we are seeing the much feared ocean meteor impact that scientist have been warning of throughout the past twenty plus years. This massive meteor hitting the ocean will generate tidal waves that sweep around the planet killing countless numbers worldwide. Coupled with that, it turns a third of the seas into something like blood or actual blood.
This recalls Israel’s deliverance in Egypt when the Nile River turned into blood (Exodus 7:20; Psalms 78:43-44), this judgment however will affect a third of the sea water of the whole earth, not just the Nile River in Egypt. In the natural realm, of course, it would seem impossible for a burning object to transform one-third of the sea into blood, cause one-third of marine life to perish, and destroy one-third of the shipping vessels. But this is a supernatural visitation that goes beyond anything that even the advances of modern science could emulate.
The Third Trumpet (Revelation 8:10-11)
Here we see a second meteor (probably a broken off piece of the massive meteor that hits the ocean) hitting land, possibly similar to Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s breaking up and impacting Jupiter in 1994. The impacting scar left on Jupiter’s surface was larger than Earth.
"And the third angel sounded; and a great star burning as a torch fell from heaven, and fell upon the third part of the rivers and upon the fountains of waters. And the name of the star is called ‘Wormwood,’ and the third part of the waters became wormwood, and many among men died from the waters, because they were made bitter."
This impact pollutes a third of the fresh drinking-water supply, both the rivers and the springs. The world wide fallout from this impact will not only be devastating in the direct destruction that it will cause, but it will also devastate by means of contamination referred to as wormwood.
The Fourth Trumpet (Revelation 8:12-13)
"And the fourth angel sounded; and the third part of the sun and the third part of the moon and the third part of the stars were stricken, so that the third part of them was darkened and the day did not brighten for a third part of it, and the night likewise. And I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe woe woe to those who dwell on the earth because of the rest of the trumpet-sounds of the three angels who are about to sound.’"
A likely result of the previous two meteor impacts will be an atmospheric blanket of dust, water vapor, and debris. The effect of this atmospheric blanket will [among other things] destroy any food crops that
might have survived up till this point or hand been replanted.
The announcement of the eagle in Revelation 8:13 is brief but vital: the past trumpets have been woeful in and of themselves, but the remaining three will be especially grievous, so much so as to earn for each of them the title of "woe". In other words, the three woes refer to the three remaining trumpet-blasts which will impact people directly, not just indirectly via the world of nature.
The judgments announced by the first 4 trumpets are so shocking and sever that our natural tendency is to doubt their literal meaning. Of course, Revelation uses numerous symbols to communicate the future, but these symbols always point to real events. The judgments in Revelation
8 that involve trees, grass, seas, rivers, and atmosphere are so dreadful that no amount of government aid, volunteer work, or preparation would be able to bring about a recovery. When we’re tempted to water down this language, soften its severity, or seek spiritual interpretations rather than literal ones, we must remind ourselves that Revelation describes beginning of the end. Jesus said clearly
Even the flood of Noah will pale in comparison.
“For then there will be a great tribulation, such has not occurred since the begging of the world until now, nor ever will”
Fifth Trumpet, The First Woe (Revelation 9:1-12)
At this time, the “abyss” will be unlocked, releasing a host of demons on earth that torment but do not kill humans. The pain will be so severe that people will long to die, but they will not be allowed any relief. This is also called “The First Woe”.
As soon as the fifth angel sounded his trumpet, John watched a star fall from heaven. The star is often used symbolically in Scripture to refer to a very famous or prominent person (Numbers 24:17), satan (Isaiah 14:12-17), human leaders in churches (Revelation
1:20), or even Christ, the “bright and morning star” (Revelation 22:16). Some understand the star in this passage to be satan falling from heaven (Keep in mind, satan can still approach the thrown of God until he is bound up after Christ return Job 1:6), though it could simply be a high ranking demon given authority over the abyss. Either way, the emphasis in the passage is clearly on what
the star did, not who he is.
The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion
when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails and stings like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.
John’s description of the locusts likens them to horses prepared for battle with golden crowns on their heads, faces like human faces, hair like that of women, and teeth like lions’ teeth (Revelation 9:7-8). These agents of misery will have breastplates of iron and wings that sound like chariots of many horses running into battle (Revelation 9:9). As awful and fearful as their appearance will be, the misery they will cause come through the stings inflicted by
their tails, by which they torture men for five months (Revelation
9:10). The power of these creatures is immense, but it is limited by God’s sovereign hand. These creatures have been described as “locust”, but the
description John provides in verses 7-10 revels that these beings are not members of the animal or insect kingdom, but soldiers in the kingdom of darkness. The symbolic representations that John saw were meant to communicate ferociousness, aggression, power, and intelligence. We can also see that this army of wicked spirits is lead by a king, known as “the angel of the abyss”. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, in the Greek he has the name Apollyon (Revelation 9:11). Though some scholars identify this ruler of the abyss as satan, he is probably a high ranking lieutenant of satan. The things
to keep in mind about this demonic horde:
- They cannot hurt the earth’s vegetation (Revelation 9:4)
- They cannot hurt those who have God’s seal (Revelation 9:4)
- They cannot kill anyone (Revelation 9:5)
- They cannot torment any longer than 5 months (Revelation 9:5)
It is also important to note John’s ominous warning: “The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come”. The worst is yet to come!
Sixth Trumpet (Revelation 9:13-21)
Upon the blast of the sixth trumpet, we see four angles of death (quite evidently fallen angels or demons) that have been held captive near the river Euphrates River (modern-day Iraq). When they are released, all the forces of hell will break loose across the face of the earth. God’s sealed servants were explicitly excluded from the consequences of the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:4)
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates." And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.
The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
As hard as it is to use the mind’s eye to see this, the natural temptation is to view this as a symbolic description of earthly armies with modern machinery but this does not appear to be the case. This force will apparently be demonic. The unusual description of the horses with breastplates of fire, hyacinth, brimstone, and heads like lions with fire, smoke, and brimstone issuing from their mouths (Revelation 9:17) is a good indication that this army is composed of demons. Whether they will be visible to the human eye isn’t known but their actions and their impact is of no question.
Incredibly tragic images fill our minds as we try to imagine the chaos, confusion, grief, and overwhelming shock that will sweep the globe at that time. All the horrors that have come before will be forgotten in the light of these unparalleled events. Consider that a fourth of mankind was killed during the fourth seal judgment (Revelation 6:7-8) and now a third is slain. We can estimate that half of the world’s population will be killed by then!
With all of the supernatural events and the preaching of the 144,000 (and the two witnesses), we would love to imagine the unbelieving world would see what was happening and turn to Christ, but John’s vision reveals that the opposite to be true.
Seventh Trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19)
A trumpet blast, booming voices, and a celestial chorus resounds before the heavenly temple. Flashes of lighting, claps of thunder, shuddering earthquakes, and damaging hail cover the earth. At the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the bowls of God’s wrath will now in turn be poured out on an unrepentant earth.
A time period on earth known as the Great Tribulation will begin. This unimaginably horrible time period will be the last 3 and one half years of tribulation.
Wrath of God: Bowl Judgments, Great Tribulation
The Greek word translated as “Bowl” refers to a shallow, saucer-like dish used to boil liquids as well as for drinking or pouring libations. One dictionary adds that the use of this term in Revelation is “suggestive of rapidity in the emptying of the contents”. The dish will splash the earth with the boiling hot wrath of God. The imminence of the bowl judgments should fill the unbeliever with fear and dread, hopefully to the point of repentance. Even as the bowls are poured out, the invitation to believe and be saved stands.
The first four bowls are reminiscent of the first four trumpet judgments describe in Revelation 8:7-13, only more extensive and more intense. In some cases, the plagues are specifically targeted to affect only the people who have aligned themselves with the antichrist, very reminiscent of the plagues that fell upon Egyptians during the Exodus of Israel (Exodus 8:21-23, Exodus 9:2-6; Exodus
10:22-23; Exodus 11:4-7)
First Bowl (Revelation 16:1)
1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go, pour out the seven bowls of God's wrath on the earth." 2 The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.
The consequences of this bowl are an inflamed running sore that refuses to heal. Such an affliction recalls the sixth Egyptian plague in which the Egyptian magicians were victims (Exodus 9:9-11). In the future time of affliction, however, the followers of the Antichrist will be the victims.
The catastrophic scale of this human affliction is unparalleled in human history. Though we may not be able to grasp the severity of this human illness, we dare not doubt its literal meaning. The assurance of the Word of God is sufficient to cause us to accept that this future malady will affect the whole human race of Jesus-rejecters. These are bad, unpleasant, agonizing ulcers that refuse to go away after they touch the bodies of those who have the mark of the beast and worship his image. In the last half of Tribulation (Great Tribulation) worship of the Antichrist will be universal, except for the followers of the Jesus (Revelation
13:3-4, Revelation 15-17), so will the
plague be. Followers of the Jesus will be unaffected just as were the Israelites during the Egyptian plagues.
The Second Bowl (Revelation 16:3)
3 The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.
The second angel poured his bowl into the sea which became blood like the blood of a dead person. That recalls the first Egyptian plague except the earlier plague rendered fresh water instead of salt water unusable (Exodus 7:19-21).
The third trumpet brought bitterness to the water, which will cause death for many (Revelation 8:10-11), but here the change is into coagulated blood or a bloodlike substance similar to it, which when decayed, will yield a foul odor that is beyond loathsome. In the first Egyptian plague, all the fish in the Nile died, but here death comes to every living creature in the sea. It is a complete destruction of marine life, not a partial one as under
the second trumpet (Revelation 8:8-9).
The Third Bowl (Revelation 16:4-7)
With the third bowl, the contamination of fresh waters follows that of the sea under the second bowl, as was the sequence with the second and third trumpets (Revelation 8:8-10).
6 for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.
God is giving the persecutors blood to drink in response to their pouring out of the blood of the saints and prophets. Note the correspondence between the crime and its punishment.
The Fourth Bowl (Revelation 16:8-9)
8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.
9 Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.
The fourth angel directed his bowl upon the sun which was given power to burn men with fire. Those burned knew the source of their great suffering because "they blasphemed the name of God who had the authority over these plagues" (Revelation 16:9). God is directly responsible for all this human misery. They blame God for the first four bowl judgments rather than blaming their own sinfulness. Sadly, they refuse to repent and give God glory. Deserved punishment hardens the callous heart even more.
Wrath of God: Bowl Judgments, Great Tribulation
The Fifth Bowl (Revelation 16:10-11)
The book of Revelation offers very little detail about the fifth bowl, describing only darkness and pain for those who swear allegiance to the Beast’s kingdom. This affliction is most likely a deepening of the darkness brought on by the fifth trumpet, and it is reminiscent of the plague of darkness that God brought on Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23) The contents of this bowl are directed at throne of the beast, who by this time will be the unchallenged ruler of the world. The result of this judgment is a darkening of the beast’s kingdom. That throne, mentioned earlier at Revelation
13:2, has been untouched up to this point and through its authority has perverted human
society into a demonic civilization. It now becomes the object of God’s wrath. The beast will be helpless to defend against the wrath, just as Pharaoh was against a comparable judgment in the ninth Egyptian plague (Exodus 10:21-23).
The fifth bowl aggravates the continuing effects of the previous bowls and the darkness will not be limited to the moral and spiritual spheres; it will also be physical darkness as was the ninth Egyptian plague and the fifth trumpet judgment (Revelation 9:2). Though not mentioned here, the faithful remnant of Israel (Revelation 12:6, 13-16) will most likely enjoy protection from this darkness just as did the children of Israel in Egyptian captivity (Exodus
10 Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened; and they gnawed their tongues because of pain,
11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.
Revelation 16:11 reminds us that the afflictions suffered by the enemies of God are cumulative. The sores brought on by the first bowl continue to fester as the darkness closes in around them. The water that would have soothed their sun-scorched flesh now stands in stinking pools, once clean water but now is polluted with decaying blood. Nevertheless the people refuse to repent. In fact, they only grow more rebellious, which prompts the pouring of the sixth bowl (Revelation 16:12)
The Sixth & Seventh Bowls (Revelation 16:12-14)
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
John reveals that the “Kings from the East” and all the armies of the world will rally for war in a place called Armageddon. As the kingdoms of earth gather to fight, the seventh angel will pour out the contents of the final bowl.
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, "It is done!" Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account
of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.
While there will be no more bowls poured out after this, events on earth are still not fully complete. The battle of Armageddon will be fought and will end with the return of Jesus Christ who will destroy all the armies gathered there as well as the antichrist. He will then rule over the earth (and universe) and we will enter the time period known as the millennium reign.
During the time of Tribulation, while the almost unimaginably horrific events are happing, the Antichrist along with the False Prophet will be ruthlessly enslaving the population and slaughter those who stand in his way along with those who turn to Christ. Jesus himself tells us:
21 “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”
22 “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.”
If you have not accepted the free gift of salvation which was purchased for you through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, please do not hesitate. The time of Tribulation is rapidly approaching and those who are in Christ will not be here for it. Please click on the “Accept the Free Gift” button at the top of the articles page for more information on how to accept the free gift of salvation.
If you are in Christ, then be of good cheer for your Lord has not destined you for his wrath. We will be Raptured and with our Lord taking part in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb during this time period.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Charles Swindoll: Daniel, Volume 2: God’s Plan for the Future
Charles Swindoll: Revelation—Unveiling the End
David Jeremiah: Turning Point
David Reagan: Evangelist
Hal Lindsey: The Hal Lindsey Report
Ed Hindson: Is the Antichrist Alive and Well
Tim LaHaye: Revelation Unveiled; Are We Living in the End Times
Jerry Jenkins: Revelation Unveiled; Are We Living in the End Times
Grant Jeffrey: Countdown To The Apocalypse