The Fourth Trumpet:

A Third of the Sun, Moon and Stars

Were Struck and Turned Dark

8: 12-13

   DIG: Why did God judge the earth with darkness? What ramifications would it have upon the inhabitants of the earth? What is His purpose?

   REFLECT: When has your sin made you blind to the world? When have you been partially blinded? Why? What was the biggest woe you have ever had in your life? What did you learn from it? How can you help others to avoid the same trap?

    As the fourth angel sounded his shofar, the focus of God’s judgment shifted from the earth to the heavens. Still reeling from the effects of the first three trumpets, people will be desperately trying to find natural explanations for each crisis. There will be seminars, conferences, emergency sessions of the United Nations, and scientific studies – all frantically seeking to cope with the ecological disasters. Yet another angelic trumpet sounded, but this time the result would be so extraordinary that it would defy all scientific understanding. This judgment would be against the heavenly bodies.

    Like the plagues of Egypt, these judgments will attack the gods of this world, and the pagan religions that worship these objects. 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 turned dark. The word struck, or the Greek word plesso, is the verb from which the noun plague comes from. The heavenly bodies will be struck with a plague from the Lord. Astrologers, fortunetellers, and witches who rely on the stars to predict the future will be speechless (see my commentary on Genesis Lw – The Witness of the Stars).

    They were not destroyed, only their light will somehow be hindered from reaching the earth. The normal light of the sun in the daytime will be reduced by one third, as is the light of the moon and stars at night. Clouds or haze in the sky cannot explain this phenomenon because John specifically tells us that was caused by the heavenly bodies being struck in such a way as to reduce their light output. The moon shines by reflected light. So its light would be reduced if the sun’s light output were reduced. It is difficult to say exactly how this will happen (It will, after all, be a miracle). But for a time, maybe a day, maybe several days, the sun’s output will be reduced. Stars produce their own light, but somehow their light will also be reduced by one third. As a result, the day and night will be only two-thirds as bright as normal, even though the skies may be completely clear of haze or anything else to obstruct the light.256  No one knows, but the Lord may shift the visible color spectrum of the sun and stars more to the ultraviolet range, which we cannot see there by reducing our ability to see the same amount of light.

    No matter how much they try to ignore the obvious, it will be impossible for the scientists of the earth to disregard the amazing darkness. It will also upset all the earth’s meteorology and climatology. Unpredictable and violent atmospheric storms will probably follow as well as interruptions in botanical and biological cycles.257

    Darkness runs through the TaNaKh as a symbol of judgment. The prophet Amos spoke of the Day of ADONAI as a day of darkness rather than light (Amos 5:18). For Joel it will be a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness (Joel 2:2a). Jesus, quoting Isaiah 13:10, says that in the Day of ADONAI there will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken (Luke 21:25-26). These prophecies will find their fulfillment when the fourth trumpet sounds.

    In the New Covenant, darkness is often associated with the demonic. Unbelievers will be cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12). In Second Corinthians 6:14-15, light and Christ are contrasted with darkness and Belial. According to Colossians 1:13, God's people are those who have been delivered out of the power of darkness (also see Colossians 2:13-15). This fourth trumpet, then, is a godly warning to three woes that will follow.258

    As I watched, I heard a vulture that was flying in midair calling out in a loud voice. The word vulture is the Greek word aetos. It can be translated either eagle or vulture. In this context a vulture is a bird of prey and symbolizes impending doom. It hovers in midair so as to be seen by all, and calls out in a loud voice so that none will fail to hear. Habakkuk described the invading Babylonians as a vulture swooping to devour (Habakkuk 1:8). ADONAI is fair, not wanting anyone to perish (Second Peter 3:9). The inhabitants of the earth will be warned. Repent!

    The vulture will announce: Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels. The last three judgments are separated from the previous four because they are three woes. With the fall of Babylon, or one world government, the woe against her is repeated twice for emphasis (18:10, 16 and 19). But here it will be repeated three times, corresponding to the last thee shofars.259 As bad as the first four judgments were, the next three will be far worse. The first two woes will be demonic invasions, and the third will contain the seven bowl judgments.


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