7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
Image above from: Brady Smith USDA Forest Service
Structure — The entire trumpet series can be divided into two parts — (1) the first four and (2) the last three. This is similar to the seals forces that are unleashed in the world.
In the first four trumpets we have (1) indirect judgments, and for the most part nature is touched. Man is only affected indirectly, but powerfully. In the last three trumpets (2) the judgment is direct and more potent. It seems that the Lord is warning in the first four and is judging in the last three.
I. God is in total control of the disasters He brings upon the earth to punish the persecutors of His people.
Note with the beginning of the trumpet judgments, we see specific, but partial, judgments brought on those who persecute Christ’s people. I draw parallels between the first four seal judgments (abstract forces) and the first four trumpets in the chart above.
The background to the effects of the first four seals is Ezekiel 14:13-14; 21.
I agree with Dennis E. Johnson that the first century believers would have seen the images of apocalyptic judgments as a description of war and its effects on a city or region under siege. “These four are the Lord’s weapons against lands and cities that defy his authority (see Johnson, D. E., below).
The key to interpretation of the images in apocalyptic literature is to note the impact of the images would have had upon the original audience, first. The Churches of Asia Minor would have seen these images as characteristics of siege warfare on their region.
The hail, fire, and blood would have destroyed their food supplies on the land. God is declaring war upon nature where His people are persecuted. He is also cutting off material things that people use to make their lives comfortable. This is the essence of idolatry — Romans 1:25 — “to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.
II. We ought always to keep in mind this judgment comes from the throne room of God.
Not only are the plagues from Egypt applied to the first century situation, the siege against Jericho and the subsequent fall of its walls are, too. If we find ourselves witnessing the wrath of God being poured out on sinful people, we must not shrink back in fear. God always punishes the persecutors of His people. God promises to bring down evil governments and nations all throughout the church age. He will use one evil nation to bring down another less evil nation. God will then bring another to bring down the winner (see Habakkuk for this strategy!).
God is sovereign over all nations and people. Trumpet-judgments are God’s war on ungodly persecution of His people!
I don’t always feel like singing in my prayer times, but I do feel much encouraged when I do! I love Paul Gerhard’s hymn — “Give to the Winds thy Fears.”
When I taught at a Bible School early in my ministry, I had privilege to teach a German Lutheran Sister — Schwester Waltraut Menzel. She was from the Diakonissen Mutterhaus Aidlingen, Germany, about 17 miles from Stuttgart. She was certainly a shining example of German Christians at their best! When our oldest son had meningitis at 18 months, she sat with him often so my wife could have some relief, during his 10 day hospital stay.
She gave me a book, Bright Valley of Love: The True Story of a Handicapped Child Who Finds a Haven of Love in the Nightmare of Nazi Germany. It is about a German community for handicapped individuals, Bethel, that was founded in 1867. Bethel stood firm during the Nazi period. It still exists today.
The director of the community, pastor Friedrich Bodelschwingh, Jr., resisted Nazi attempts at removing the persons under his care. When given notice the T-4 group would be soon coming to remove untermenschlich (“sub-humans”) from their community, courageously, he sent this reply to the Nazis —
“You can put me into a concentration camp if you want, that is your affair. But as long as I am free, you do not touch one of my patients. I cannot change to fit the times or the wishes of the Führer. I stand under orders from our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Pastor Bodelschwingh, Jr. pictured below on a German postage stamp honoring him.)
Many times the Nazi T-4 organization threatened to transport all patients at Bethel to be euthanized, but the director refused to give in. In their darkest hour, a young crippled boy, Gunther, would appear outside Rev. Bodelschwingh’s study and sing Paul Gerhard’s hymns to encourage his faith. In that book, I first learned “Give to the Wind thy Fears.” (see Bethel Foundation, below.)
His grandmother had dropped him off, saying he was “loony , and all of the rest of Bethel residents were loony too.”
Later, Sister Marie at Bethel told Gunther, “When you sing praises to God, Gunther, somehow you remind us that we are not carrying our sorrows and troubles all alone” (See Hong, below).
We too can stand for Christ in the midst of threatening judgments on our country or region or church. The wrath of God that falls on wicked people angers them so much that they strike out at God’s people! They cannot acknowledge God exits, so they strikeout at those who believe He does. We must “give to the winds our fear” and follow God who is faithful to His promises in all seasons of life.
III. Those who persecute God’s Church are at war with God, and God is at war with the persecuters of His people.
Saints may feel under siege by their neighbors, caught in the middle as it were between God and the punished earth-dwellers. We must take up prayers that God will send His judgment against hardened opponents of God’s work. We always hope for salvation, even of those who persecute Christians, but some are so determined to wipe out Christ’s Church that they refuse to repent.
One third — It is significant that these plagues all involve 1/3 of things. This speaks of the partial answering of the prayers of the saints now. There will be token fulfillments all through the age of the church and just before the end there will be the complete fulfillment. The seven bowls will record the final manifestation of the wrath of God. The trumpets are only warnings of impending doom, and are, therefore, partial. The first area affected is that of man’s natural environment — the greenery. Food supply was always an object of destruction in a siege. We do well to see that God inflicts punishment from natural occurrences — weather, etc.
The partial character of these judgments reveal God is punishing in part before the end of the age. To believers God warns not to be too closely aligned with their “earth-dwelling” neighbors. These are they who are in step with the times and social elitists.
Next time, trumpets two and three.
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.
Bethel Foundation. (2020). Accessed 5 June 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethel_Foundation
Hendriksen, Wm. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Hong, E. H. (1976). Bright Valley of Love: The True Story of a Handicapped Child Who Finds a Haven of Love in the Nightmare of Nazi Germany. Augsburg Press.
Johnson, A. F. (1996). Revelation (Expositor’s Bible Commentary series). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Co.
Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.
© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved