Trumpets of Judgment

Title: Trumpets of Judgment

Bible Book: Revelation 8 : 1-13

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Judgment



We are casting our net into the deep, dark waters of the Apocalypse - the Book of Revelation. We are drawing in the net so we can count the blessings promised in the first chapter, the third verse. This is the blessing we are promised if we read the book or hear it read. I thank God that the promise is not made only to those who can fathom the depth of this prophecy. I am equally thankful that it is not made only to those who have adopted one of the three basic approaches to the interpretation of the Apocalypse. In other words, you are promised a blessing when you read this book whether you agree with my position or not. The blessing is based in God’s sovereignty, not my intuition, perception, or interpretation. Now, let me emphasize that I do believe there is a correct approach to the book and those who seek and discover the truth are blessed far more than those who accept a false or even a limited explanation. Yet, there are countless students of the Word who do not agree with each other, who still claim that they are blessed when they read this book.

I once had a man tell me that he could not understand the rest of the Bible but he could explain Revelation to me. I was tempted to ask him to explain it! That is like saying I cannot remember the multiplication tables but I could teach you advanced geometry or trigonometry. That is a little like saying, I have a little trouble with band-aids but I can perform brain surgery. Revelation is the graduate course in Bible study, but please do not let that discourage you. There are a lot of people with more degrees than a thermometer who know nothing about the Bible.

What we are doing in this series of messages is very simple. We are skimming the surface in search of the promised blessing. In doing so we should learn a little more about this mysterious, prophetic book with which the Lord closes out his inspired Word.

In chapter one, we see the Son of God standing by the throne of God. He is revealed to us as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

In chapters two and three, we find the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. These were real, historical churches with real people, real problems, and real ministries. The number seven is the perfect number or the complete number, signifying that there is a message in each of these letters for us today.

In chapter 4, we are introduced to the throne room of Heaven. God is seated on the throne and the risen Savior is standing at His right hand. There are four living ones around the throne. The number four is the universal number (as in the four corners of the earth, the four winds), possibly representing all the living ones in Heaven other than redeemed human beings (angels, Cherubim, and Seraphim).

There are four and twenty elders around the throne, denoting the redeemed who are in Heaven. We must read chapter four in order to be prepared for what is going to happen in chapter five.

In chapter five, the One who is seated on the throne has a scroll in His hand and no one in Heaven or on earth can break the seven seals and read the message, which is written within and on the outside. John weeps because no one is qualified to take the scroll and no one is powerful enough to break the seven seals. He is told to stop crying because the Lamb of God has taken the scroll and He is qualified to break the seals and reveal the message of the scroll. The scroll seems to be a deed to all God has Created. Jesus is qualified because He was the Agent of Creation, and because he poured out His life’s blood for our redemption, and He was raised from the dead.

In chapter six, the first six seals are broken and as each is broken there is an announcement of judgment. The martyrs cry out for vindication and unredeemed cry out for the rocks and hills to fall on them and hide them from the judgment of the One Who sits on the throne and from the wrath of
Lamb of God.

In chapter seven, judgment is held back while the angel of the Lord who has the seal of the living God seals those who are redeemed - those who are redeemed of Israel during the Great Tribulation - and those who believe in Him from every nation, race, and language.

Now we come to chapter eight. When the seventh seal is broken there is an earthquake, complete with thunder and lightening, and then there are seven trumpets which announce God’s judgment against the earth. The first four trumpets are sounded in chapter eight and the final three will follow.


“When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand in the presence of God; seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel, with a gold incense burner, came and stood at the altar. He was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’’s hand. The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth; there were thunders, rumblings, lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.”

1) “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

The silence is for dramatic effect. This is a profound stillness with no elder or angel speaking, no chorus of praise nor cry of adoration, no thunder from the throne. There is a parallel to this in 10:4:
“And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. Then I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!” Everything is on hold, awaiting the next revelation from the Lord.

2) Seven angels before the throne receive trumpets.

Following the thirty minutes of absolute silence, this must have been dramatic. One can only imagine the anticipation as each angel took his trumpet. In Bible times the trumpet was used to sound an alarm, call men to battle, direct men in battle, or even call a retreat. What is about to happen when angels in Heaven sound trumpets? This must really be important.

3) Another angel, with a gold incense burner, came and stood at the altar.

John tells us that “He was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’s hand.” This image takes us back to the Old Testament tabernacle and to the temple. The smoke from the incense symbolized the prayers of the saints rising up to the Father. If the people humbled themselves before Him their prayers were like a fragrant aroma in His nostrils. If they were insincere, hypocritical, or rebellious, they were offensive to Him. In Amos, God told the people of Israel, the Northern Kingdom to take away their music (He couldn’t stand it!); take away their offerings (they were a stench in His nostrils); and cease their prayers (He wouldn’t listen to them).

4) “The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth.”

When the angel “hurled” the fire on the earth, he was making a dramatic announcement of the judgment that is to come upon the earth: “There were thunders, rumblings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” Earthquakes have been associated with God’s judgement throughout human history. Students of the Flood are convinced that there were major earthquakes, volcanoes, and tidal waves of gigantic proportions at the beginning of, and during the early stages of the Flood (when the fountains of the deep gave up their water).

5) “And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.”

The angels will now blow their trumpets in order, rather than in unison. Each time an angel blows his trumpet, something dramatic and shocking will take place. Judgment is coming to the earth. I realize that judgment is not a popular theme in the church in America today, and it is not going to be very popular then!

Mega-churches are springing up all over America, and sadly, some of them are more committed to giving people what they want than they are to giving them what God says we are to preach and teach. The secular liberal emphasis on tolerance has so invaded the church that the last thing you are likely to hear a sermon on in some of those churches is sin and judgment. There is very little emphasis on repentance and they shy away from the blood, and as one said, “any thing gory that might offend our people.”

A member of a Sunday School class asked, “Why are more people not in church?” An attorney spoke up and said, “I’ll tell you one problem. I will guarantee you there won’t be two preachers in this city who will be preaching on sin today, and no body is going to be preaching on hell.” A lady in another state observed that in their church they never hear the word “repent”. She defines some of the services - and those behind this movement as HHPP - Happy, Happy, Praise People. They come happy and expect to leave excited. Even if they do not come happy, the expect to leave excited. A director of missions in another state confided to me that he was about ready to stop taking his Bible to church on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. “There is no use to take it, no one is using it.” This is a sad commentary on the state of the church in America today.

Like it or not, God is not only a God of love, He is a Holy God and the holiness of God demands judgment for all who reject the God of love. A friend from college and seminary, Harold Bryson once wrote a book entitled, YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A HELL. Yes, there is judgment, and the judgment is from One qualified to judge, One with the sovereign right to judge, and the power to judge. This is one of those times when we need to stop and remind ourselves: HE IS GOD AND I AM NOT!

There is another factor we need to understand today. Josh McDowell was asked about the source of some of the misunderstanding in America. He stressed that there is a serious gap between generations. To illustrate, he said that parents have the attitude, “If it is true it will work.” The younger generation has the attitude, “If it works it is true.” This is a serious difference. A very animated young man was a guest on Hannity and Colmbs recently. When given a final word, he began exclaming, “If George Bush would just tell the truth about Iraq....if George Bush would just tell the truth about the war...if George Bush would just tell the truth...”

I resented the attack very strongly because to me - and my generation - he was calling President Bush a liar. People who have known President Bush a long time are convinced of his Christian character. He is a man of faith, a man of God. If this is true, he knows that Satan is the father of lies, a liar from the very beginning. God hates lying and His children should have the same attitude toward lies and deception.

Then it dawned on me that what the young man was saying was that what President Bush was saying did not support his opinion, or his agenda. There is nothing new about this. A man named Karl Marx taught his followers that whatever advances the cause off Communism is moral - and that includes lying, adultery, stealing, or murder. To the Marxists, any of those things that will advance their cause is moral. Is it not amazing that the media hates Nazism and makes allowances for Communism?

Josh McDowell stressed that parents and their children do not speak the same language - and there is no way grandparents today speak the same language as their grandchildren. I might add that this attitude has invaded the church. Is it possible that we are now in that age when church members will not bear sound doctrine? Now let us look at the first four trumpets.


A. The First Trumpet Sounds, 8:7.

“The first angel blew his trumpet, and hail and fire, mixed with blood, were hurled to the earth. So a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.”

The seventh seal is broken and there is silence in Heaven for half an hour. Following this an angel hurls fire on the earth and “there were thunders, rumblings, lightnings, and an earthquake.” Following the earthquake the seven angels begin blowing their trumpets, one after the other. Immediately after the first angel blows his trumpet and “hail and fire, mixed with blood, were hurled to the earth” with catastrophic results. One “third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.”

Does this sound unreal? Does it sound too severe? Does it seem impractical? Does it sound shocking? How would you answer questions like those? Let me suggest some things for us to consider.

1) My first cousin and her husband have just sold two perfectly good houses and a nice sized block of land to a developer. Let me stress that these are large modern homes located in an ideal location in their city. Guess what the developer is going to do with the houses? He is going to bulldoze them down! I can hardly believe it. What a waste! Why would he do that? He is going to build some really high priced homes on the land and though the houses he is going to demolish are homes most people would treasure, the developer is going to build bigger and more valuable houses in there places, and he is going to build more houses on the land.

2) A perfectly sound service station is demolished and what do they build in its place? Right! A new, modern service station, complete with a Wendy’s restaurant, a SubWay, and all sorts of groceries, automobile accessories, ice cream, coffee, and fountain drinks.

3) A perfectly good church building is torn down. Why? They are going to build a bigger church building in its place, a church with modern equipment and facilities.

4) In 2004, Florida was been hit by hurricane Charlie with devastating force. Charlie was followed by Frances, and Frances was certainly no lady. This Texas sized hurricane slowly moved through then entire state, and then through Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, dumping heavy rains and causing serious problems there before moving up the east coast. I saw evidence of the damage from Frances while attending the LifeWay board of trustees meeting at Ridgecrest. While we were getting reports about the mud-slides and all the problems the flooding caused, we were getting reports on a much more powerful storm, Ivan the Terrible, which was approaching land. A number of trustees had to leave to go home to help their families evacuate before Ivan hit land. I drove all the back in one day because all the motels rooms were taken from the coast to I-40.

We have witnessed by TV the horrifying effects of Ivan. John Sullivan, Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention says that people there have moved from apathy to shock, to faith. Let us pray that the devastating effects of these three hurricanes will bring people to their knees before the One Who sits on the throne of eternity.

Over 1500 Southern Baptists went to Florida and the other states hit by the hurricanes working, ministering, and feeding people. Southern Baptists represented the third largest relief team in Florida and other states behind the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Hurricane Jeanne has just killed over 1500 people in Haiti (with 900 missing).

By television, we watched the reports and saw the pictures of the devastation caused by these forces of nature. How could anyone have imagined that 2005 would bring a record number of hurricanes, or that some of these would be some of the most destructive hurricanes in history. Hundreds of churches were destroyed, Katrina left New Orleans flooded, over one thousand people were killed, snipers made rescue work possibly the most dangerous or any hurricane relief in history. Rita was followed by Rita, which flooded south east Texas and south west Louisiana. Katrina pushed a surge ahead of it onto the coast of Mississippi, leaving almost total destruction. You know the cousin I mentioned earlier? They had spent two years building a very nice home in Bay St. Louis. They lost the house and everything in it, including highly prized antiques.

Many churches have been involved in the relief and recovery effort. Southern Baptists had served over 10.5 million meals some time ago. I had the privilege of voting with LifeWay trustees to send sic million dollars for relief.

We could go on and on about the force of these killer hurricanes. A year or so ago there was a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that sent a 30 foot tidal wave ashore, killing and destroying almost everything in its path. If such devastating storms sweep across the earth right now, just try to imagine what it will be like when God really pours out His judgment on the earth. Remember, the earth is His, He is holy, and He is sovereign. He can do whatever he chooses to do.

B. The Second Trumpet Sounds, 8:8-9.

“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, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”

The first four trumpets sound judgment against the earth, against the physical universe. Here, as the second trumpet is blown, “something like a great mountain ablaze with fire was hurled into the sea.” This fire destroyed one third of the ships of the sea and one third of the life of the sea. In other words, it targeted both marine life and commerce that depends upon the sea.

C. The Third Trumpet Sounds, 8:10-11.

“The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from heaven. It fell on a third of the rivers and springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood, and a third of the waters became wormwood. So, many of the people died from the waters, because they had been made bitter.”

When the third angel blew his trumpet a great star, possibly a giant meteor fell from the heavens. It fell on one third of the rivers and springs. Following the sounding of the second trumpet one third of the salt water was destroyed. Following the third trumpet, one third of the fresh water was destroyed. The name of the star was wormwood. “Many species of wormwood (a woody herb) grow in Palestine, and all have a strong, bitter (but not poisonous) taste, which causes the plant to be used as a symbol of bitterness, sorrow, and calamity. This plague will make a third part of the fresh water supply of the earth unfit for human consumption” [RSB].

D. The Fourth Trumpet Sounds, 8:12.

“The fourth angel blew his trumpet, 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 was without light, and the night as well.”

The first trumpet sounds and one third of the earth is destroyed. The second trumpet sounds and the salt water of the earth is hit and one third of marine life is destroyed, as well as one third of the ships.
The third trumped sounds and one third of the fresh water streams are destroyed. Now the fourth trumpet sounds 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.” This speaks of catastrophic judgment, the likes of which the world has not seen since the great Flood. While we may see the hand of God raised in judgment in our day, this speaks of a future judgment which defies the imagination.

E. There Are Three More Trumpets Yet to Be Blown, 8:13.

John says, “I looked, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid-heaven, saying in a loud voice, ““Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth, because of the remaining trumpet blasts that the three angels are about to sound!” Just when people must have been wondering, can it get any worse, it gets worse. There is more to come.

If we are skimming the surface for the blessing the Lord has for us in this shocking prophecy, what do you think we will learn? Where is the blessing? Is there anything in this that makes us praise the Lord for his love, mercy, and grace? Absolutely.

1) The martyrs in heaven cry out for vindication - they will be vindicated.

2) The evil people of the world live day by day as though there was no judgment - there is.

3) The ungodly live as though God does not care what we do - He does.

4) This judgment is poured out on the earth during the Great Tribulation - I won’t be here!

5) When this judgment comes I will be before the throne with the angels, elders, and saints.

6) This may sound negative - so what! Is it negative to warn us about terrorists?

7) This Scripture should lead us to commit ourselves to our Savior.


When I read something like this prophecy, or hear a sermon about the judgment of God on all that is evil, what should my response be? I am glad I can answer that! In the first place, regardless of what else you may glean from Revelation, I trust that you will spend a lot of time thinking about the sovereignty of God. He is absolutely sovereign. He is in control and He has never been in danger of losing control. He started it all and He will finish it all. The Creator at the beginning of human history is the Sustainer and Redeemer throughout human history, and He will be the Sovereign God at the end of human history.

When we read the Revelation, we get just a little picture of what God is up to. The only question is, do you want to be in on what He is up to? You can, you know. Listen to the words of Jesus:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

“Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:1-6

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