Revelation 8:11

Thursday, 31 December 2020

The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter. Revelation 8:11

The words now being seen are the result of the sounding of the third trumpet. As has been seen, the results of this sounding could be literal, or they could be figurative. This commentary leans heavily in the direction of a figurative interpretation, but still provides a second analysis of what could be an actual set of literal events as well.

These could be literal events that are actually symbolic of other things than those described. As an example, the next trumpet says the sun, moon, and stars will be struck. Though that can be taken as a literal darkening of the heavenly bodies, when such occurs, it is the earth’s atmosphere and not actually the sun, moon, or stars that darken.

For now, the verse begins with, “The name of the star is Wormwood.” The Greek reads, apsinthos. It is a bitter plant and so it signifies that which is intensely bitter. It is that which produces extremely sad results. Of this, Vincent’s Word Studies notes –

“Used metaphorically in the Old Testament of the idolatry of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:18); of calamity and sorrow (Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, Lamentations 3:19); of false judgment (Amos 5:7).”

What Vincent’s is referring to is the Hebrew word laanah – hemlock, or wormwood. It is from an unused root signifying to curse. Thus, it is that which is poisonous or accursed. As can be seen from the Old Testament references, they are metaphorical. Therefore, there is no reason to assume that the New Testament references here in Revelation must be taken literally. That is an option, but it does not necessarily follow that it must be so.

With that understood, John next says, “A third of the waters became wormwood.” If a literal interpretation is correct, it would mean that the great star that fell from heaven onto one-third of the rivers and springs of water has poisoned them. This could happen from a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack. The water becomes contaminated and deadly.

If the words are to be taken in a symbolic or figurative sense, this very well could be referring to the false prophet (or the antichrist) who will later be described in Revelation. The analysis of the previous verse again showed that stars can (and often do) speak of human leaders. This then would be a great deceiver who seduces those who have missed the rapture to believe the strong delusion that is coming.

As is obvious, many will not believe him because there is a great multitude in white that have already been seen as coming to a saving faith in Christ. However, one-third of those under this apostatized leader will believe the lie. In their following him (or, if taken literally, the results of the poisoning of the waters), it next says, “and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.”

The water is either literally to be taken as poisonous, or it is to be the exact opposite of what Christ spoke of in John 7 –

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  John 7:37, 38

From Christ come rivers of living water. From such a false and apostatized leader comes poisoned waters of wormwood. In such an interpretation, and one which is highly likely, looking at some of those Old Testament references mentioned above will open the meaning. This wormwood represents contamination by sin.

In Proverbs 5, it is equated with following the advice of an immoral woman. The parallel then is clear – the world has followed the advice of the immoral woman of apostasy and false religion led by this vile leader. This is symbolized by the great harlot coming in Chapter 17. The world will listen to the lies of this false religion and will drink the cup of her bitterness. In Jeremiah 9:15, we also read the effects of wormwood –

“Behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.”

As you see, the wormwood is connected here with gall that is mentioned in Deuteronomy and Lamentations. Gall is what was offered to Jesus at the cross as well, which He rejected. The rich symbolism shows us the painful effects of sin. The wormwood of this cataclysm is much stronger than ordinary wormwood that normally doesn’t cause death. The wormwood here noted infects the waters, and “many men” will die because of its effects.

Life application: Regardless as to whether the future events are literal or spiritual, the Old Testament clearly shows that the wormwood there is to be taken metaphorically. As this is so, and if these events of the future are also to be taken figuratively, it is evident that even after having the clear evidence of the rapture presented to the people of the world, they will still rather believe the lie they are told than the truth that can save them.

As this is so, and it is clearly true from 2 Thessalonians 2:11, it shows the complete unwillingness of man to accept truth when it is clearly presented to him. This is perfectly evident by following politics. Truth is suppressed in the minds of people because of their dislike of a particular candidate. They will actually believe anything they are told, no matter how ridiculous, rather than believing what is true about the candidate.

The same is true with events in the world around us. Despite all the evidence in the world for the earth being a globe, something that even a junior high school student could prove with a single conference call to friends around the world. People will rather believe the lie of a flat earth, because of their political alliances or allegiances. Blind hatred and constant conspiracy theories can corrupt one’s objective thinking.

How much more willingly do people believe the lies from the religion their families and churches have been teaching them for all their lives! The plain and obvious truth of Jesus Christ’s deity and humanity are expressly stated in Scripture, and yet cults deny one or more of those tenets as if the words printed in black and white have no meaning.

A pretribulation rapture is clearly taught by Paul, and yet those who have been instructed otherwise deny the literal rendering of the words. Some even deny any such doctrine as a rapture at all. Eternal salvation is highlighted as a principal tenet of proper theology. And yet, this fact is denied, argued against, and belittled by countless people who are unschooled in theology and/or biased against that doctrine.

In other words, each of us must come to the pages of Scripture acknowledging that we may be wrong in what we believe. Then, we should determine to put the truth of Scripture ahead of our presuppositions and preconceived notions. Unless we are willing to do this, we could be as wrong about a particular doctrine as a person is wrong who thinks that he could fall off of the edge of a flat earth into the abyss of space.

Such is the nature of sin (of which bad doctrine is) and of our need to stay away from heresies and false religion, even now. The time is coming when these things will lead to great cataclysms and destruction. Hold fast to the truth of the word. Hold fast to JESUS!

Oh God, the effects of our sin, and our willingness to reject the truth and follow after lies and deceit, will lead us away from You and from what is right, moral, and proper. In the end, these things will only lead to troubled lives, and even to bitterness and death. If we will just be willing to take the moral and spiritual truths found in Your word and rightly apply them to our lives, we will be on the right path in ourselves, in our homes, in our politics, and in our relationship with You. Help us to do this, to Your glory alone. Amen.


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