Revelation 8:9

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. Revelation 8:9

The words of this verse describe the effects of the “great mountain burning with fire” that was thrown into the sea. As noted in the previous verse, the effects stated in this verse seem to disprove a symbolic meaning of the “sea of people.” Instead, it more likely appears to be the literal sea. As it says, “And a third of the living creatures in the sea died.”

If this is a literal interpretation, then it would mean exactly as it states. Those living creatures in the sea are affected. But that brings in a question as to what “sea” is being referred to. As the events are focused on the land of Israel, it would mean either the Sea of Galilee (which is more like a lake) or the Mediterranean Sea. It does not have to mean the entire scope of the world, although this is still a possibility.

If the interpretation of the previous verse is speaking in imagery, even these words have a possible symbolic meaning. The living creatures would be those of the tribulation period churches or those who are evangelized by the churches. Jesus used such terminology when comparing the people of Israel to those who are being fished for –

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” Matthew 4:18-20

Another argument for a symbolic meaning is that John says they are “the creatures that are in the sea” (YLT). He does not say they are “sea creatures,” as James does. In James 3:7, he uses the word enalios, signifying things of the sea.

Therefore, with neither possible interpretation excluded thus far, John continues by saying, “and a third of the ships were destroyed.” Again, this seems to argue against a symbolic interpretation. Ships belong on the sea, and it is ships that are destroyed – as would be described in a literal interpretation. However, both concepts can be brought into a symbolic meaning as well. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown says –

“The symbolical interpreters take the ships here to be churches. For the Greek here for ships is not the common one, but that used in the Gospels of the apostolic vessel in which Christ taught: and the first churches were in the shape of an inverted ship: and the Greek for destroyed is also used of heretical corruptings (1Ti 6:5).”

This is confirmed by the Jesus Walk commentary, a portion of which says –

“The ship (bark or barque, barchetta) was an ancient Christian symbol. [It is] the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution but finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of human souls. Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah’s family during the Flood (1 Peter 3:20-21). Jesus protecting the Peter’s boat and the apostles on the stormy Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41). It was also a great symbol during times when Christians needed to disguise the cross, since the ship’s mast forms a cross in many of its depictions.”

Even today in Israel, there is a church of which the pulpit is in the form of a ship. It is on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and it was designed this way to uphold this ancient tradition. And so, a symbolic meaning would be that a third of the churches were affected by the events described here, and are thus destroyed (literally or through corruption of doctrine).

The things analyzed in the previous verse, and in this verse, are given to provide various interpretations of what is coming in the future. The truth of the interpretation will be known after the events occur. For now, we can only look forward with evaluations that may or may not match what will actually take place.

Life application: If the events of this verse are literal, human life will still be lost, even though such is not specifically mentioned here. This is because ships don’t sail themselves. In other words, human life will be lost on those ships and probably many will die from the coastal tsunamis. The tsunamis generated by the Indonesian earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people all along the Indian Ocean. The disaster of the second trumpet will, then, probably be much, much worse.

Another result of this would be the economic chaos that would result from the loss of all the shipping and the loss of the coastal industries. Finally, the loss of marine life for food would continue to strip the world of food resources.

If the events are to be taken symbolically, it does not diminish the tragedy that will be faced by the people who are affected by them. In the end, the events of the trumpet judgments will be harmful in the extreme, and when they occur, they will be understood by those who live through them because of what is now presented by John.

But the best part for those who have called on Christ now is that we do not need to be worried about them affecting us personally. We are safe in Christ, and these events will be worked out in a world that has rejected Him. Those who come to Him after the rapture, however, will have to face them head on. Get the word of the gospel out now, while there is time for people to respond. It is our duty to tell of what God has done in Christ for the world. It is our duty to tell of the great things accomplished by JESUS!

O God, if the people of the world would just bow their hearts to You now, things would be so much better. But they refuse to do so. In this, they will come under Your judgment. But in Your wrath, remember mercy, O God. Nobody deserves your grace and Your favor, and without it nothing would be left. But we know the outcome already from Your word, and we do know that mercy will be coming as well. Thank You for this, O God. Amen.

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