As the final seal of the scroll was opened, seven angels began blowing trumpets to signal the next wave of God’s judgment on the earth. With the first two trumpets came blood, fire, hail, and the devastation of the waterways of the earth as the water was turned to blood. In John’s horrifying vision, the earth’s shipping and food supplies were devastated by the terrible unleashing of God’s judgment. Now, the third angel sounded his trumpet and a meteoric catastrophe was released.
With some symbolism, John describes how that a great star plummeted to the earth. Perhaps our modern scientific terminology prevents us from calling this star an actual star, since, all the stars of the universe are typically larger than our own sun. And since the sun is approximately 1.3 million times the size of the earth, it would be impossible for our sun (or any other star) to plummet to the earth’s surface (if anything, the earth would sizzle on the sun’s surface like a little water droplet on the stove). We would have to understand that John’s use of the word star is less scientific and more descriptive. Here a heavenly body that glows and burns as it cuts through earth’s atmosphere (perhaps a meteor or asteroid) falls from the sky and devastates the earth’s water supplies in the process.
The word used to describe the calamity it causes on the water supply is “Wormwood.” This is a term that has been used in various forms to describe poisonous and toxic substances. In essence, John is saying that a third of the earth’s water supply will be polluted and unpotable. In verse 11, those who drank from the poisoned and bitter waters will die as a result. The catastrophic effects of this giant meteor would no doubt leave people wondering if their next sip of life-sustaining water would be their last. What an incredibly frightful time, where you can’t even trust a drink of water!
While the inhabitants of the planet writhed under the judgment of God, the fourth angel began to call with his trumpet, and the unthinkable terror continued. The sun, and the moon, and the stars were all thrown into an astrophysical chaos. John describes it as a darkness that swallowed up a third of each. Whether the inner gravitational workings of the universe began to unbind or collapse, or some other inexplicable calamity was occurring, the reality is that the heavens above would never be the same once this trumpeter finished his disastrous call.
It is an interesting point that the first four devastation-trumpeting angels take up only six verses, and the remaining three trumpeters will require the next three chapters. Arriving at the end of chapter 8, John explained that he saw an angel soaring through heaven proclaiming a triple “Woe” on the earth for the remaining three trumpet calls. In the words of this angel, the devastation of the earth’s food supplies, water supplies, shipping, and the undoing of the heavenly bodies was just the beginning. The remaining three trumpets would bring much more horror and terror than the first four.
God’s justice is sure. There is no wrong deed that will be left unjudged. In His justice, God will undo all the wrong of all the ages. He will cleanse the earth of its sinfulness and the marks of the fall. As we see the terrible and fearful works of the Almighty God, we must not lose sight that His ways are perfect, and His judgments are pure and right. His cleansing work is not just random and cruel. It is executed with the clearest wisdom and purpose to achieve an eternal goal known most perfectly to Him. We must look on in fright and respect as we read the terrors of the just hand of the Almighty.
Reflect: If God has the power to undo the heavens and cause catastrophic astrophysical events, what does that tell us He is using that same power to do right now while we do not see these catastrophes?