Friday, 1 January 2021
Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night. Revelation 8:12
The trumpet judgments continue on now with John saying, “Then the fourth angel sounded.” As will be seen in the next verse, this is the first of the three triple-woe judgments. For now, however, John continues with, “And a third of the sun was struck.”
The previous judgments were directed against the earth (literally or figuratively) in the trees and grass, in the sea, and in the springs of water. This one, at first, appears different as it is directed toward the sun. However, may not be the case. It might be something that occurs on the earth that causes the sun to become obscured. This also includes “a third of the moon, and a third of the stars.”
This is similar to the events of the sixth seal as previously recorded in verse 6:12 –
“I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.”
The first question is whether this is symbolic of something else or is it literal. Either way, obscuring of the heavenly bodies is something that almost universally portends evil. When there are eclipses, the nations tend to see them as bad omens. To have light obscured means darkness. Whether it is literal or figurative, darkness carries the same general thought – that of being oppressed and afflicted.
Another question that remains unanswered is, “Is this only over the land of Israel, or is this global in its effects?” The next verse will use the same general word found throughout Revelation that speaks of a particular land, the earth, the ground, the soil, and so on. Therefore, the answer remains open to interpretation.
A third of these heavenly bodies being struck would mean that the light of them is diminished by one third. The sun that is normally seen would be darkened by one third. The same is true with the moon and stars. Thus, many dim stars would be completely obscured.
Considering this as a literal occurrence, it could still have figurative meaning. The sense of judgment, oppression, confusion, and so on, from the darkening of the heavens could translate directly to the same thing occurring in the people of the world. In other words, when Christ was born, there was the star in the east that indicated His coming. The real event in the heavens directed the people to the fulfillment of what it was calling out to be seen. Likewise, the literal event in the heavens (here in Revelation 8) could be calling out to direct the people to the fulfillment on earth – human confusion, oppression, and so on.
Therefore, the scope of the event – it being over Israel or over the whole world – would then have less importance than the event itself. The effects of the star being seen above Bethlehem were realized in the coming of Messiah for the whole world.
Although there are differences, this trumpet judgment is not entirely unlike the ninth plague against Egypt. There, the sun was totally obscured for three days. Here, it is only partially obscured. That was shown to be a judgment against Egypt’s sun god, Ra. Here, the event is showing that the world and how it operates under the heavens is at the control of the Lord. This is certain because the event is prophesied in advance. Thus, it demonstrates His sovereignty over time and over the physical universe.
Assuming this is a literal obscuring of the heavenly bodies, whether it is global or localized, it is a heavenly sign of God’s disapproval of the actions of man and they are being judged for them. That literal sign of judgment is then to be worked out against man in confusion and chaos.
What is certain is that the events of the fifth and sixth trumpets involve real events that will actually happen in and among men dwelling on the earth. This will be seen when we get to those verses.
Life application: During the Gulf War, the oil fields of Kuwait were set on fire. In this, a great parallel is seen between here and the coming trumpet judgments. It may even be that those events were precursors to what will come again – probably against the land of Israel in particular.
There was so much smoke from those fields that it literally obscured the sun, moon, and stars in a large swath of the earth for an extended period of time. The actual event corresponded to the confusion, war, and mayhem that was occurring on the ground as nations gathered in battle against Saddam Hussein and his forces.
We may have been given an advanced demonstration of how these events will be played out during the tribulation. In fact, some of the events to be described in the coming fifth and sixth trumpets amazingly parallel what happened in Iraq.
For now, let us consider that the book is written, the events are going to come to pass, and they will be known as the fulfillment of prophesy after they occur. We don’t need to fret about the cataclysmic things that occur around us as if God is out of control. Rather, prophecy is given to show us that He is in complete control. Let us hold fast to this and not be in fear. Instead, let us direct our hearts to the Lord who is our Peace. Let us direct our hearts to JESUS!
Lord God, how thankful we are to You that, in a world of seeming chaos and confusion, we know that You are in complete control. Events of the future are prophesied to show us that You are in complete control. Whatever happens in the temporary will be overshadowed by the eternal wonder we will experience in Your presence. Thank You that we can live without fear because of the great hope we possess in Jesus Christ. Amen.