What are the First Four Trumpet Judgements during the Tribulation?
Jesus revealed the trumpet judgments in the eighth chapter of Revelation. The events and judgments in Revelation occur in chronological order as listed below:
- Jesus sends letters to His Churches during this age (the Church Age).
- Between chapters three and four, the Church Age ends when Jesus raptures the Church.
- Chapters four and five explain why only Jesus qualifies to open the seals on God’s judgments.
- In chapter six, the seven seals judgments are opened, and one-fourth of the earth’s population has died (2 billion people?). The seal judgments brought the time in the seven-year tribulation up to the mid-point. One thousand two hundred sixty days have passed, and 1260 days of great tribulation remain before Jesus returns, ends the tribulation, and begins His thousand-year reign.
- The interludes in chapter seven tell us who the overcomer is in the tribulation.
- The seventh seal was opened at the end of chapter six, which contained the seven trumpet judgments that occur during the second half of the tribulation. One-third of the remaining population will die (another 2 billion?).
- When the first trumpet blows, a dramatic pause lasts—in heaven!–for half an hour!
Note: This article explains the first four trumpet judgments. The last three trumpet judgments are called woes, and they’re detailed in a separate post you can read here.
|The Four Judgments in the Tribulation|
|Seven Seals||Rev. 6||1st half of the tribulation|
|Seven Trumpets||Rev. 8-9||2nd half of the tribulation|
|Seven Thunders (Hidden)||Rev. 10||After the Trumpets|
|Seven Bowls||Rev. 16||Before the 2nd Coming|
The Seven Trumpet Judgments (Revelation 8)
- Chapter 6 showed the judgments of God as each seal opened.
- Chapter 7 showed God’s protection of His own on earth and in heaven.
- Chapter 8 shows a dramatic pause when the first trumpet blows after opening the seventh seal. Sometimes more is communicated by silence than words!
The silence lasted for half an hour. Does Heaven have time? Who knew?
After the seal judgments, God had the attention of earth dwellers:
“They said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (6:16).
When Jesus blows the first trumpet, He also gets heaven’s attention. What could be so important … so ominous?
The Seventh Seal and the First Trumpet (Revelation 8:1-7)
Setting the Mood
The pause was a gut punch that sucked the air out of everyone’s sails! It suggested that as bad as the first six seals were, they were a warm-up. The earth dwellers all hope they aren’t just in the eye of the hurricane, but they are. They may think, “So maybe, the judgments have passed?” These seven trumpets come out of–are a part of–the judgments of the seventh seal.
These trumpets aren’t associated with other trumpet soundings in Scripture. But trumpet blasts were used in Israel for various reasons, e.g., to assemble Israel, to announce God ascending His throne, or as part of their military maneuvers (Numbers 10; Judges 7:18-20; Psalm 47:5). Earlier in Revelation, they described Jesus’ voice (1:10). But, here in chapters eight and nine, they announce each new judgment.
An Agreeable Fragrance
Another angel appeared performing priestly duties in the heavenly tabernacle. He had a golden censor, which was used to burn incense in the earthly temple that was a copy of the heavenly (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5). Gold often symbolized divine nature, and it covered the altar of incense that stood outside of the Holy of Holies in God’s temple (Exodus 40:5).
The incense symbolized and accompanied the saints’ prayers (Revelation 5:3; 8:3-4). Under the Old Covenant, the priests used it with the offerings of atonement (Exodus 30:7; Leviticus 16:11-14).
Their incense was unique, holy unto the Lord (Exodus 30:34-38). God gave them the recipe they followed precisely. God was jealous of this incense; it was for serving and worshiping Him alone. Violators, who deviated from the recipe, were judged severely (1 Kings 11:8; 2 Chronicles 26:16-19). The scent pleased the Lord and represented a “sweet savor (a pleasing aroma).”
In a beautiful depiction, the smoke from this incense commingled with the prayers of the saints. The saints agreed with God’s judgments on wickedness. Judgments that match God’s character.
The antitype of this holy incense was Christ’s propitiation (satisfying sacrifice) to God through His death on the cross. His intercession before God, based on His blood sacrifice, makes our prayers, and these saints’ prayers, effective (Ephesians 5:2). None other will do!
“Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it onto the earth. And there were noises, thundering, lightning, and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:5).
Now prepared for his role, the angel sounds the first trumpet which resulted in (Revelation 8:7):
- There was hail.
- And fire mixed with blood.
When this was “thrown at the earth,” it burned up:
- A third of the trees
- All the green grass
Its Focus: The Land
This is not a localized judgment but a general judgment of the land area of the entire earth.
Note: This judgment is like Moses’ seventh plague on Egypt (Exodus 9:18). Israel’s prophets predicted it for Israel in the last days (Isaiah 30:30; Ezekiel 38:22). Also, in Moses’ plague, there was again green grass present in a later judgment because it was in the right stage of growth to survive the initial purge (Exodus 9:31-32; Revelation 9:4). This may account for the vegetation present later in the vision.
Note: The seal judgments in the first half of the tribulation affected fourths. The trumpet judgments affect thirds. When you first take a fourth of something and then a third of that, it removes one-half.
The Second Trumpet (Revelation 8:8-9)
Its Focus: The Seas
The trumpet judgments are focused first on the land, second on the seas, the third on fresh water, and the fourth on the skies. After the first sounds, the earth dwellers may think, “The judgments are on the earth, but I make my living off the sea (8:7).” But the next one falls on the sea and the next on freshwater (8:8-11). Soon everyone is affected: There is no place to run—or hide (6:15-17; 9:20-21). And the terror increases as escape routes are eliminated, one by one! It’s like a maze, with apparent exits closing when they’re approached.
When the Second Trumpet Blows
“Something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (8:8-9).
John’s struggling to describe something he’s never seen. Maybe an asteroid?
Future Judgment Finishes the Job
The future second bowl judgment will finish the job this second trumpet started. The entire sea will be turned to blood, and every living creature in it will die (16:3).” These intensified judgments are like the first plague in Egypt, which turned the Nile River to blood.
The Third Trumpet (Revelation 8:10-11)
When the Third Trumpet Blows
“A great star from heaven, burning like a torch, fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. The name of this star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became Wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.”
Its Focus: Fresh Waters
Another comet or meteoroid? It’s like the second trumpet judgment but polluting freshwater sources.
Many judgments hearken back to the ten plagues on Egypt. Also, Jeremiah used the same term the judgments use here, ‘Wormwood,’ which means bitter, to describe God’s judgment on Israel (Jeremiah 9:15; 23:15; Lamentations 3:15-19).
There aren’t enough particulars to realize the trumpet’s details. But if this ‘star’ had toxic materials, broke up high enough in the atmosphere, and fell on one-third of the earth, it could fulfill what this vision describes.
The Fourth Trumpet (8:12-13)
Imagine the horror! You’re so miserable you want to die but can’t. The will to live is a strong instinct for everyone. But these conditions are so loathsome that the earth dwellers long to die!
Its Focus: The Skies
The fourth trumpet blows, and the judgment affects the sky,
“A third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day had no light, and likewise a third of the night.”
A Heavenly Pandemic
The sun was “struck (gr. plhssw”),” and the word has a secondary meaning of “plague.” This judgment creates a heavenly pandemic.
Details are missing, so we don’t know how God accomplishes this. It might hint back to the Egyptian plagues. If so, maybe it’s supernatural darkness for eight hours of the day (Exodus 10:22-23). A darkness that can be felt—like walking through thick cobwebs! The ninth plague in Egypt had darkness “so thick it (could) be felt” and “no one could rise from his place for three days” (Exodus 10:22-23).
But supernatural darkness signified that The Day of the Lord had arrived (Joel 2:30-32). These signs warn of God’s judgment and ask them to turn to Him for salvation. Darkness fell for three hours during the middle of the day during our Lord’s crucifixion, and it carried that same message (Mark 15:33). God’s judgment has come!
The text for this verse varies, and students of prophecy suggest it’s possible an eagle announces this judgment instead of an angel. If it does, it’s a perfect symbol of the three woes revealed in the next three trumpets and the death that follows in their wakes.