Tagged: views of Revelation

The survivors gave glory to the God of heaven — Revelation 11:13-14

Previously: A violent earthquake took place (Rev. 11:13)

The scripture

Rev. 11:13 – At that moment a violent earthquake took place, a tenth of the city fell, and 7,000 people were killed in the earthquake. The survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14The second woe has passed. Take note: the third woe is coming quickly! (HCSB)

The survivors gave glory to the God of heaven

John writes that the “survivors” of the earthquake are “terrified” and give “glory to the God of heaven” (v. 13). His use of the word “survivors” implies the death of some – perhaps people, human institutions or world systems. Those still alive see the hand of God in these events and are shaken to the bone with fear. Fear of the Lord can be a good thing, starting us on a journey of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Or, it can move us further away from God, motivating us to hide from His presence (Rev. 6:15-17). Or, it can inspire awe, leading us to exclaim, “We have seen incredible things today” (Luke 5:26).

Commentators are divided as to whether the survivors’ fear in this passage drives them to repentance or merely elicits a response designed to appease an angry God. Elsewhere in Revelation, the wicked stubbornly refuse to turn to God despite the clear understanding that God is bringing His judgments to bear on the earth. After the sixth trumpet is sounded, “The rest of the people, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands to stop worshipping demons and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood … And they did not repent of their murders, their sorceries, their sexual immorality, or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21). As the fourth bowl judgment is poured out, the wicked who are burned by fire “blasphemed the name of the God who had the power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give God the glory” (Rev. 16:9). And as the fifth bowl judgment follows, plunging people into darkness, they “gnawed their tongues from pain and blasphemed the God of heaven … yet they did not repent of their actions” (Rev. 16:11).

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A preterist perspective — Revelation 8:8-9

Previously: Hurled into the sea (Rev. 8:8-9)

The scripture

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).

A preterist perspective

There is a fascinating perspective that some preterists share about the symbolism in these verses. Preterists, you’ll recall, believe the events of Revelation are fulfilled in the first centuries of the church age and argue that the symbolism used here depicts the collapse of the Jewish state and the dispersion of the Jewish people. They begin by taking us to the time when Jesus curses the barren fig tree, which probably symbolizes the fruitless and unbelieving nation of Israel (Matt. 21:18-19). When the tree withers immediately, the disciples are amazed. Jesus responds, “I assure you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done” (Matt. 21:21, emphasis added).

Since Jesus’ statement is connected with the cursing of the fig tree, it is possible that His reference to “this mountain” being thrown into the sea is His prediction that the corrupt nation of Israel will be crushed by Gentile oppressors (the Romans) and the people dispersed among the Gentile nations. If this is the case, His judgment of Israel is in response to the prayers of the saints in Rev. 8:3-5.

Four major views of the second trumpet

So, how do proponents of the four major interpretations of Revelation view the second trumpet?

  • Preterists – who see the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the church age – say the entire series of trumpet judgments is concerned with the Jewish War of 66-70 A.D., the “last days” of the Jewish commonwealth. Symbolically, the “great mountain ablaze with fire” is the nation of Israel under God’s fiery judgment. The sea is frequently used in prophecy as a symbol of the Gentile nations. Therefore, the Jews, defeated at the hands of the Romans, are now dispersed among the Gentile nations. Perhaps a more literal fulfillment may be seen in an event recorded by the historian Josephus, who describes a battle in which the Romans pursue many Galileans onto the Sea of Galilee and slaughter them there. Josephus’ description of the battle closely parallels John’s report of a third of the sea becoming blood and of the destruction of fish and ships, although Josephus never read Revelation. The phrase “a third” is a rabbinic reference to a large number and should not necessarily be interpreted literally.
  • Many historicists – who view the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history – identify the great mountain with the Vandals, who leave their ancient home in the Baltic to invade Rome, ravage the once-undisputed masters of the sea and cause great damage to the islands. Some, however, see the mountain as a heretical leader who causes great damage to the church.
  • Many futurists – who argue that the events of Revelation are largely unfulfilled, especially chapters 4-22 – say the mountain-like object falling into the sea represents the influence of an Antichrist-led coalition on the Gentile nations (the sea). Some, however, equate the mountain with spiritual Babylon, which is prominent later in Revelation and symbolizes the false church (meaning Roman Catholicism) that will by destroyed by the people she once tyrannized. Still others take a literal approach, arguing for a giant meteorite, or asteroid, or even a satellite orbiting another planet and hurled to the earth. One popular futurist argues that the mountain is in fact a hydrogen bomb.
  • Some idealists, or spiritualists – who see Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil – believe the great mountain burning with fire and cast into the sea is drawn from the images of Babylon’s fall in the Old Testament (Jer. 51:25, 42). Some unidentified power – perhaps the Roman Empire – will fall in similar manner. Others suggest this is a volcano whose ashes pollute the sea; perhaps this is fresh in the minds of first-century readers who are familiar with the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. One commentator reminds us that the particular mention of the loss of shipping may mean that while the first plague hits our environment, the second impacts our commerce.

Next: The third trumpet (Rev. 8:10-11)

Hurled into the sea — Revelation 8:8-9

Previously: The second trumpet judgment (Rev. 8:8-9)

The scripture

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)

The second trumpet — Revelation 8:8-9

Previously: A third of the earth was burned up (Rev. 8:7)

The scripture

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).

The second trumpet

This is the second of four trumpet judgments that affect natural objects, in this case the sea and the creatures who swim in it or sail upon it. The final three trumpet judgments, as we learned in the last lesson, affect men’s lives with pain, death and hell.

In this second trumpet judgment, John sees something that appears to him as a great blazing mountain plummeting into the sea, resulting in a third of the sea becoming blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea dying, and a third of the ships navigating its waters being destroyed.

Is John’s vision to be taken literally? What is this great blazing mountain? Is the sea a reference to all salty bodies of water around the world, or perhaps simply a reference to the Mediterranean Sea – or something else entirely? What are we to make of the fractional reference to “a third,” which we encountered in the first trumpet judgment? Let’s look more closely.

The second 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. This is an important detail that should not be overlooked.

While the Day of the Lord will come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2) and Jesus warns His followers to be ready at all times for the unknown day of His return (Matt. 25:13), the judgments God sends upon the world’s wicked are announced in advance. We are not told how much time elapses between the sounding of the shofar and the arrival of these torments, any more than we can say with certainty how much time we have to run for cover after a tornado siren blasts a warning. But it appears that God communicates to mankind through the angels that His mercy is drawing to a close and His hammer is about to fall. Perhaps in these final moments some will repent, although John’s record seems to indicate that the wicked prefer blasphemy to humility in the face of judgment (Rev. (9:21, 16:9b, 21b).

Something like a great mountain ablaze with fire

What is it that John sees? He writes that “something like a great mountain ablaze with fire was hurled into the sea.” He doesn’t say “a great mountain,” but “something like a great mountain,” which could mean this is a hidden symbol for his first-century readers or an attempt to describe something he has never seen before – a glimpse, perhaps, into the distant future.

Commentators offer many perspectives:

  • Some say this mountain is Satan, lifted up like a mountain in his pride, and burning with hatred for God and his people, who is cast down into the sea of humanity, where he does much harm.
  • Others say this is a heresy that does much damage to the church – the Macedonian heresy, perhaps, leveled against the deity of the Holy Spirit, or the Arian heresy against the deity of Christ. Each of these divine persons is one-third of the triune Godhead, so John’s reference to the mountain causing damage to “a third” of the sea finds its significance here.
  • Still others argue that it’s best to understand this imagery in terms of the invasion of the Roman Empire by the Goths and Vandals. Rome is fitly represented as a great mountain, as kingdoms and cities sometimes are in scripture. The “sea” in this case represents the people throughout the Roman Empire who suffer as a result of the invaders’ brutal advance on Rome. Over the course of 137 years, beginning in 410 A.D., the Goths and Vandals sack Rome five times and reportedly one-third of the people are killed.
  • W.A. Criswell writes that a modern-day fulfillment could be communism, which finds its foothold among restless people. Rather than producing liberation, it brings captivity, hardship, economic depression, despair and death.
  • Futurists like Hal Lindsay see this blazing mountain as John’s attempt to describe nuclear warheads.
  • Others interpret these verses literally. “The mountain is probably best understood as being a literal large body that fell from heaven. Since the results are literal, it is reasonable to take the judgments as literal also” (J.F. Walvoord, R.B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Rev. 8:8–9).

Whatever the proper interpretation, it’s clear that this judgment impacts many people. Satan is thought by some commentators to have taken one-third of the angelic host with him in his rebellion. Heresies that undermine any of the persons of the Triune Godhead impact the church and its ability to carry the gospel to the world. Wars involving world powers like Rome generate tremendous violence and upheaval. Worldviews that deny the reality of a Creator and Judge, like communism, result in spiritual, political and economic imprisonment. And modern technology has made it possible for a single nation to wreak havoc on much of the world.

Perhaps, as we’ve addressed in previous lessons, these verses are fulfilled in John’s day, and later in church history, and finally in the last days. Jerusalem falls in 70 A.D. and with it, formal Judaism comes to a close. The Roman Empire falls a few centuries later. Heresies do great damage to the church. Warfare causes great loss of life and damage to property and the environment. And in the last days, according to futurists, the Antichrist will lead nearly the whole world astray. In every case there is a common denominator: sin. Mankind’s rebellion against God manifests itself in political leaders who deify themselves; in church leaders who trump scripture with manmade traditions or, worse, heresies; in philosophers who rail against the idea of God and His absolute truths; and in ordinary people who prefer the praise of men to the praise of God.

Maybe we would do well not to agonize over what each symbol in Revelation means, but to look within ourselves at our fallen state and to grasp the only hope we have: Jesus. Ultimately, it will take the destruction of the entire world to purge it of sin and its consequences and to make way for new heavens and a new earth (see 2 Peter 3: 10-13).

Next: Hurled into the sea (Rev. 8:8-9)

Revelation 6-7: Download the free study

We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John, as well as a firm conviction that in this book are many clear doctrinal truths around which all believers may rally. We still have a long way to go in our study. You can read the commentary to date by clicking here.

Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.

We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.

With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapters 6-7. If you missed the link to notes on chapters 1-3 or 4-5, links are provided as well.

Download the pdf: Revelation 6-7

Download the pdf: Revelation 4-5

Download Introduction to Revelation and chapters 1-3