Monday, 28 December 2020
Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. Revelation 8:8
With the first trumpet sounded and its judgment complete, John next says, “Then the second angel sounded.” There is no lull or delay between the sounding of the trumpets. The effects of the first one were directed at the earth. Now the effects of this second one are directed at the sea. As it says, “And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea.”
The wording here needs to be carefully considered. And, like the previous verse, being dogmatic about what is being presented is probably not wise. The first thing to consider is that this is like a great mountain. It is not a mountain. The terminology is apocalyptic, and John is trying to describe something. Using “a great mountain” is his way of doing so.
Secondly, it is “burning with fire.” John is seeing something that is huge and filled with the glow of fire. And thirdly, he says it was “thrown into the sea.” This can be a literal sea, or it can be figuratively speaking of multitudes of people. What appears to be referred to is a prophecy from Amos 7 –
“Thus the Lord God showed me: Behold, the Lord God called for conflict by fire, and it consumed the great deep and devoured the territory. 5 Then I said:
‘O Lord God, cease, I pray!
Oh, that Jacob may stand,
For he is small!’
6 So the Lord relented concerning this.
‘This also shall not be,’ said the Lord God.” Amos 7:4-6
If this is where the symbolism is derived from, John is speaking of a sea of people, probably centered in the land of Israel. If this is correct, then the next words become obvious. John says, “and a third of the sea became blood.” It would mean that this burning mountain has made casualties of one-third of the people it was focused at. The idea of the words “became blood” can mean “killed,” or it could possibly mean “killed or wounded.” Again, it is hard to be dogmatic about something that is future.
The idea of this being a symbolic sea seems to be disproven by the next verse where it speaks of living creatures in the sea and the destruction of ships. However, that is not necessarily so, as will be seen in that verse.
If this figurative option is correct, the question is, “What is John describing?” The answer could be a nuclear detonation. When detonated, it would appear to someone who has never seen such a thing as a great burning mountain – literally glowing with fire. In such a blast, killing one-third of those in the immediate area is not at all unlikely.
Obviously, with such a set of words, John could also be speaking of the literal sea – such as the Mediterranean Sea. If so, the symbolism would not be any different. A nuclear blast going off in the sea would produce much killing, and the metaphor of the sea becoming blood would indicate the resulting death.
If John is referring to Amos 7, it would then be that the first option is more likely. Amos is referring to the people of Israel in his visions, and so it would follow that John – who is heavily relying on Old Testament symbolism – is also speaking in the same graphic manner. As noted in the commentary on the previous verse, it appears that the trumpet judgments are centered on the land of Israel. But again, being dogmatic is not sound with future events that could be described either by literal or figurative terminology.
And further, the “great mountain burning with fire” could be something that is completely different. It is obvious that in the previous trumpet, the censer stood as a metaphor for something else, not a censer itself. The same could be true here. Mountains in Scripture are representative of forms of government, such as Babylon being described as a destroying mountain. And then, there is the “mountain of the Lord,” meaning the government of the Lord. Thus, this could be an enraged government, burning against Israel and coming against them.
No matter what, the plague of blood is reminiscent of the first plague of the Exodus when blood struck the Nile –
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone.”’” Exodus 7:19
Life application: Evaluating future events is difficult to do, and generations of people have done their best – at whatever time in history they lived – to describe what is being conveyed by John. As time has gone on, people have inserted their current time and circumstances into what they believe is being portrayed.
This is natural because it seems that every generation has thought that they were the generation of Christ’s return. People have written as such for eons. In the world we live in today, it is no different. We look around and see the world in the state it is in, we look around at the technology and what it can do, and we make conclusions about the events of Revelation based on those things.
But for two thousand years, people have been incorrect about their belief that they were the generation of the Lord’s return. Maybe we are too. And yet, it does appear that the Bible’s scenario for future events is rightly aligned with our age. This is especially so because Israel (the nation) is back in the land of Israel. Further, modern technology certainly appears to give us possibilities that were not possible in past generations, such as nuclear war.
For these reasons, we can apply this current knowledge to our eschatology and come up with reasonable analyses of what is being portrayed in Revelation. But let us remember, these things may be literal, or they may be figurative. And so, let us not be haughty or overly dogmatic. We should do our best in our presentations, but we should still remember these events are future and we could be wrong.
In the end, it is our greatest honor to seek out what is conveyed, and to then carefully present our thoughts without bringing discredit upon the exalted name of our Lord in the process. Let us do our best to honor Him in our studies. He is worthy of that. He is JESUS!
Lord, Your word says that great calamities are coming upon the world at some point in the future. They will be more terrifying than anything ever seen before. Isaiah tells us that man will become rarer than fine gold. This is because they will fail to glorify You. The world will go into a self-destructive tailspin. But for Your redeemed, there will be relief from this. Help us to continue to get the word out to the world before that terrible day comes. To Your glory. Amen.