“Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from the sky, burning like a torch. It fell on one-third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star was Bitterness. It made one-third of the water bitter, and many people died from drinking the bitter water. Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and one-third of the sun was struck, and one-third of the moon, and one-third of the stars, and they became dark. And one-third of the day was dark, and also one-third of the night.”
Revelation 8:10-12 NLT
The third angel put the trumpet to his lips and took a deep breath. He paused, perhaps deeply touched with thoughts of sadness and dismay, because he knew what would happen once he sounded the note. What an awesome responsibility it is, to be an instrument of God’s judgement. He finally expelled the air in his lungs, and the trumpet blast rang true and pure through the Heavenly realms.
People on earth looked up and fear gripped them as a huge bright object appeared, quickly growing larger and larger as it entered the earth’s atmosphere. It was burning, like a torch according to John’s vision. That meant that it would have had a wake of fire spewing out behind it. Finally it reached earth, falling “on one-third of the rivers and on the springs of water”. John was told it was a star with the name “Wormwood” or “Bitterness”. And it made one third of the earth’s rivers and the springs of water too toxic to safely drink. And we are told that “many people died from drinking the bitter water”. Today nearly ten percent of the world’s population do not have access to a clean and reliable water supply. Perhaps a picture of what is to come.
Then, in his vision, John saw another angel step up and put the trumpet to his lips. I wonder what he was thinking about as he took a deep breath? Perhaps he too had a feeling of trepidation, even horror, about what was to come. The impact of this trumpet blast on the celestial objects we are so familiar with was stark. Just imagine the consequences of seeing a third of the sun disappear? There would instantly have been a reduction in warmth. But the celestial devastation didn’t end there, because John saw a chunk disappear from the moon and many familiar stars couldn’t be seen anymore. John also saw that darkness for the day and for the night increased by a third.
We can only speculate on what would have caused such an event. Those on earth at the time would have been worried and even sick with fear, and perhaps those marked with God’s seal were working overtime explaining why all these things were happening. And they would have implored those around them to turn from their wicked ways and reach out in repentance to God.
This apocalyptic picture, so factually and unemotionally laid out in John’s vision, nevertheless perhaps instils within us pilgrims feelings of fear and trepidation as well. Perhaps we try and rationalise things and say that the events portrayed will never happen in our lifetimes. Some might even try and interpret John’s vision in a spiritual way, somehow reducing its impact and relevance. But we have to accept the end times events as written – why else would Jesus have given His friend John so many details of what was to come?
In Matthew 24:13, Jesus said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved”. And that is really the message that we pilgrims must grasp. If we are still alive when the mayhem set out after the trumpets sound, then we call upon our faith, our trust in God, and stand firm, enduring what comes our way until the end. Sadly, Jesus also said in Matthew 24:10, “And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other”. Let’s not be counted in that number.
Dear Father God. We confess that we experience much fear and trepidation when we read about John’s vision and try and picture in our minds what will happen. But in all that we pray for the strength to be obedient to Your call to endure to the end. In Jesus’ name. Amen.