(cf. Rev. 8:6-13)
As there is a distinction between the first 4 seals, and the the last 3, here, the first 4 trumpets are largely concerned with the forces of nature and the 3 with people. “The first (angel) sounded, and there came hail and fire,…” – the next few verses is going to be a lot of parallelism to the Egyptian plagues. This hail and fire is much like Exodus 9:24, while some see this an allusion to Ezekiel 38:22, where Gog’s invading army is destroyed by hailstones, fire, and brimstone – maybe a possibility. Notice as it says, “and a third of the earth was burned up,…” – back in chapter 6 it was 1/4 of the earth, so you see the intensification from the seals’ 1/4, to the trumpets’ 1/3, and to the bowls total destruction. Indeed the sounding of the trumpets is essentially to issue a warning (cf. Ezek. 33:3). Now 1/3 is mentioned extensively in this chapter and in the whole book of Revelations. Notice as it mentions, “…and all the green grass was burned up.” – but in Chapter 9:4 it mentions “…don’t hurt all the green grass…” This suggests that we cannot hold apocalyptic language too tight as we cannot lock it down like prose. It maybe the word one third (1/3) as to the “green” is to be applied to the vegetation only as it is to everything else in 9:4. The whole earth is not destroyed, but enough to indicate the gravity of the warning. So the 2nd angel blows a trumpet “…and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea;…” – some see this to be an allusion to Psalms 46. Others go to apocalyptic literature like the Book of Enoch 18:13-16, or the Sybilline oracles chapter 5:158, and so you see the different ways they’re trying to get these allusions. Others would even say it’s about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD
Now notice as it says, “…and a third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died;…” – that reminds me of Exodus 7:20-21. Indeed the plagues of Egypt are alluded to in this part of the book. The throwing down of mountains to the sea is indeed a terror to the wicked, but God’s people need not fear from God”s judgment on the wicked. “…and a third of the ships were destroyed.” – does not suggest a pollution of the sea on a grand scale on account of only a third of the ships were destroyed, nonetheless this is not describing a natural happening but indeed a divine intervention. God is a moral God, and He has a settled judgment against sin. He takes action against sin, but God’s people have nothing to fear because in Him we find shelter and protection (cf. Psalms 91:4).
THE 3RD AND THE 4TH TRUMPETS
Notice from verse 10, a great star from heaven fell upon the 3rd of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters. The name of this star is Wormwood, a bitter substance, (an allusion from Jeremiah 9:15; Lamentations 3:19 RSV), resulting to the deaths of scores of people. Also, wormwood is linked to a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit in Deuteronomy 29:17-18, a poison that will kill because of its link with idolatry in Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 23:15; and also in Amos 6:12. Notice, people died here. That just shows an intensification from the seals for they’re only partial, but here they died. And the 4th angel blew his trumpet – the sun, moon, and the stars are affected. There is no light. This goes back to the judgment of God about the 9th plague in Egypt which was concerned with darkness. This may likewise be an allusion to Joel 2 or Amos 5:18 for the idea of ‘darkness’ as a symbol of God’s judgment. And of course, all of us know about Calvary; how darkness came from noon till 3:00 in the afternoon to show that God turned away from His Son. Another New Testament allusion will be Mark 13:20, and you might want to look that up.
Verse 13 – we have an interlude, like we did back in the seals. Here we have an eagle flying through heaven. King James has ‘angel’, but that’s a very inferior manuscript from the 9th century. The eagle (could be a vulture), a bird of prey has many allusions to the Old Testament like Job 39:27-30, or Ezekiel 39:17; Habakkuk 1:8. There are also many possible allusions in the New Testament about vultures connected with God’s judgment – Matthew 24:28; and Luke 17:37. And even in this inter-Biblical literature of 2nd Baruch 77:19ff you see many possible allusions. The idea of “flying in mid-air’ means the highest point in heaven, where the sun reaches at meridian. From this point, the eagle says a three-fold woe to the inhabitants of the earth (unredeemed mankind – cf. Rev. 3:10; 6:19; 10:13). We see this woes in 9:12; 11:14; and 12:12, and this triple woe is concerned with the 3 trumpets which are yet to sound. The first is said to be past in 9:12, and the 2nd in 11:14. But the 3rd woe is not specifically mentioned, it could be the coming of Satan in Rev. 12:12 venting all his wrath because he knows his time is short. The pronouncement of the three-fold woes by the eagle shows the growing intensity of the plagues that are to come. The symbols employed by John are too fluid to lock it down. But the over-all theme of these impending judgments on the physical creation is not so much to inflict harm as to try to turn fallen men’s heart to God (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8-10). O’ what a loving God we have!