Rev. 8:8 – The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain ablaze with fire was hurled into the sea. So a third of the sea became blood, 9a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed (HCSB).
Hurled into the sea
The great blazing mountain is “hurled into the sea.” Depending on how commentators interpret the mountain, the sea can mean many things:
- Humanity (if Satan is the mountain).
- The church (if heretics are the mountain).
- The people of the Roman Empire (if the Goths and Vandals are the mountain).
- The Gentiles (if Israel is the mountain).
- The world’s restless people (if communism is the mountain).
- The waters of the seas (if there is a natural explanation for the mountain such as a meteorite or a volcano, or if the mountain is a nuclear warhead).
It’s probably best not to mix and match symbolic and literal interpretations when it comes to the imagery in passages like this. A consistent view – either symbolic or literal – may be wrong, but a mixing of both views is almost certainly in error. Also, it’s wise to try to understand symbolic language in the context of clear teaching in other scriptures.
The sea in scripture
Before moving on, let’s look at some of the ways scripture deals with the “sea.” In the Old Testament, the predominant use of the Hebrew word yam is to describe the Mediterranean Sea. The word yam also means west, westward, or seaward with respect to Israel. The Mediterranean is called the “Great Sea,” the “western sea” and the “sea of the Philistines” in some translations.
Other seas mentioned in the Old Testament are the Red Sea (literally the sea of reeds), the Dead Sea (literally the sea of salt), and the Sea of Galilee. The word yam also is used to describe broad rivers like the Nile and Euphrates. And it’s used with reference to the great basin in the temple court.
In the New Testament, the Greek word thalassa describes many of the same bodies of water we encounter in the Old Testament. The Jews exercised a fear of the sea, probably because of ancient Semitic beliefs that the deep personified the power that fought against God. Yet, God is the Creator of the sea. He controls it and commands it to provide for mankind’s good. The language of Isaiah and Jeremiah demonstrate that He is absolutely sovereign over the sea. Some of the greatest miracles in the Bible are set in the sea: the parting of the Red Sea; Jesus’ walk on the Sea of Galilee; and Jesus’ calming of the same sea. Whatever fears people have of the sea will be done away with when God removes the sea in the world to come (Rev. 21:1).
Used symbolically in the Old Testament, the sea perhaps means the nations around the Mediterranean (Isa. 60:5) or the tumultuous changes among the nations of the earth (Dan. 7:3; see also Rev. 13:1).
The New Topical Text Book lists the following symbolic uses of the sea in the Bible:
- Heavy afflictions (Isa. 43:2; La 2:13)
- Trouble of the wicked (Isa. 57:20)
- Roaring of hostile armies (Isa. 5:30; Jer. 6:23)
- Waves of righteousness (Isa. 48:18)
- Waves of devastating armies (Eze. 26:3-4)
- Waves of the unsteady (James 1:6)
- Covered with waters, speaking of the diffusion of spiritual knowledge over the earth in the latter days (Isa. 11:9; Hab 2:14)
- Smooth as glass, a reference to the peace of heaven (Rev. 4:6; 15:2) (R. Torrey, A Scriptural Text Book for the Use of Ministers, Teachers, and All Christian Workers, Logos Research Systems, Inc.)
Next: A preterist perspective (Rev. 8:8-9)
This is the first in a nine-part series of articles offering sound reasons to believe the Bible is the Word of God.
In Systematic Theology (Vol. I), Dr. Norman Geisler presents many lines of evidence supporting claims for the Bible as the Word of God. In unique fashion, he labels each line of evidence with a word beginning with the letter “S,” making his arguments relatively easy to follow and remember. This article borrows his headings and then incorporates some of Geisler’s research with other sources, all of which are cited.
Reason 1: The testimony of science
Much in the Bible demonstrates advanced scientific knowledge – that is, God revealed through human scribes information that only He knew long before scientists discovered these truths. For example:
- The exact order of events in the origin of all things. “In a day when the ancient polytheistic myths of origin prevailed, the author of Genesis declared that the universe came into being out of nothing by the act of a theistic God in the exact order that modern science discovered a millennium and a half later,” writes Geisler. “The universe came first (Gen. 1:1a), then the earth (1:1b), then the land and sea (1:10). After this came life in the sea (1:21), then land animals (1:24-25), and finally … human beings (1:27). This too supports the view that the author of Genesis had access to some intelligence as to how the Creator made the universe” (p. 545).
- Reproduction after each creature’s own kind. This scientific fact runs contrary to many ancient and even early modern views. Observation and the fossil record demonstrate that each type of life produces its own kind.
- The earth as the raw material of human bodies. Many ancient polytheistic beliefs claim that people cam from the gods; the Koran teaches that human beings were made from a blood clot (Sura 23:14); but the Bible explains that God made Adam from the earth (Gen. 2:7).
- Rain water returning to its source (Eccl.. 1:7). Perhaps without even understanding it, the writer recorded the process of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation long before scientists figured it out.
- The shape of the world as it hangs in space. Job (26:7) and Isaiah (40:22) make remarkable statements contrary to the ancient belief that the earth was flat, or square. Some myths held that the earth rested on the back of Hercules or on pillars, but the Bible states otherwise.
- Life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11), a fact declared in scripture more than 3,000 years ago and only fairly recently attested to in science.
- The sea’s paths and boundaries (Ps. 8:8; Prov. 8:29). The continental shelf that makes this possible is a fairly recent scientific discovery.
- The laws of sanitation (Lev. 12-15). Long before there was scientific knowledge of bacteria and germs, God instructed His people through laws of sanitation to protect themselves from diseases spread by unseen organisms.
Next – Reason 2: The testimony of the scrolls