The third trumpet: Revelation 8:10-11

Previously: A preterist perspective – Rev. 8:8-9

The scripture

Rev. 8:10-11 – The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from heaven. It fell on a third of the rivers and springs of water. 11The name of the star is Wormwood, and a third of the waters became wormwood. So, many of the people died from the waters, because they had been made bitter (HCSB).

This is the third of the first four trumpet judgments that affect natural objects, in this case fresh water, resulting in the death of many. The final three trumpet judgments, which we will address in later lessons, affect men’s lives with pain, death and hell.

In this judgment, John sees “a great star, blazing like a torch,” falling from heaven and striking a third of the rivers and springs of water. This star is called Wormwood, which means absinthe, a bitter herb, and many die from drinking the water.

Is this “star” an object from outer space – a meteorite, perhaps? Is it an angel or demon? A world leader? When John says it falls from heaven, does He mean from the throne of God or the stellar sphere? Why does it fall on a third of the fresh water? And are these all the waters of the earth, or just in Israel and the surrounding lands? Why does this star have a name? And how can a bitter herb kill so many people? Let’s dig a little deeper and see what we can learn.

The third angel blew his trumpet

As a reminder, the “trumpet” each angel blows in this series of judgments is the shofar, or ram’s horn, and has special significance for Israel (see The first trumpet for more details). In this case, the sound of the shofar announces the commencement of judgment. Following each trumpet blast, we are introduced to the instrument of God’s judgment: hail and fire, mixed with blood (the first judgment); something like a great mountain ablaze with fire (the second judgment); a great star, blazing like a torch (the third judgment); a third of the sun, moon  and stars struck (the fourth judgment); a star with the key to the abyss (the fifth judgment); the release of four bound angels at the Euphrates River (the sixth judgment); and loud voices in heaven and an opening of God’s sanctuary (the seventh trumpet).

The sound of the shofar alerts us that God is moving righteously in judgment, extending His mercy a little while longer for those who will repent, destroying the wicked, rewarding His people, and preparing the created order for new heavens and a new earth.

Christians in particular should joyfully anticipate the sounding of the trumpet that heralds our physical resurrection and glorification – the “last trumpet” of 1 Cor. 15:52 and “the trumpet of God” in 1 Thess. 4:16.

Next: A great star fell from heaven (Rev. 8:10-11)