The Sounding of the Trumpets
July 8th, 1962 @ 8:15 AM
THE SOUNDING OF THE TRUMPETS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-8-62 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Sounding of the Trumpets. It is an exposition of the eighth chapter of the Book of the Revelation. And in your Bible, if you will turn to Revelation chapter 8, you can easily follow the message of the morning; Revelation chapter 8. The last time the message was brought, it ended at verse 5. We begin this morning at verse 6 and preach through the end of the chapter, Revelation chapter 8, verse 6:
And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.
And the original text says, "And a third part of the earth was burned up."
And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
And I beheld, and heard an eagle
You have it translated here "an angel":
an eagle flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
We have come, in our exposition of the Revelation; we have come to that point in history where all things are set for the great, final, dramatic movement that brings the consummation of the age and the end of time. In this eighth chapter, the seventh and the last seal is broken, and there is a hush and a vast illimitable, impenetrable silence in heaven [Revelation 8:1]; a silence that can be felt, an intense anticipation and expectation. In this eighth chapter, after that seventh seal is broken, and following that vast, indescribable stillness and silentness in heaven, then there is brought before God the prayers of all the saints of all of the ages [Revelation 8:3]; His people praying, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done" [Matthew 6:10]. And the prayers of the martyrs of the fifth seal, crying for vengeance for their blood spilled upon the earth [Revelation 6:9-10].
Then in that eighth chapter there is the angel priest who takes fire from off the altar, and he casts it into the earth [Revelation 8:5]: a picture of the coming doom, the judgment of God, the wrath of the Almighty upon this blaspheming, and unbelieving, and [rejecting] earth. Then this climactic movement that shall bring the consummation of the age: the sounding of those seven trumpets – and each one with an intenser woe than the one that precedes [Revelation 8:6-13]. Oh! what a day, what a terror, what a horror for those who own not Christ our Lord.
There are two tremendous, vast horizon-covering, earth-covering, heaven-covering – there are two vast, tremendous events that lie ahead. The first is our translation to heaven; the second is our return from heaven. The first is Christ coming for His saints; and the second is Christ coming with His saints. Paul is the one that describes the first of those great coming events:
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel. . .and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall be caught up together with them in the clouds.
[1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]
This is the first great event, and there is nothing between us and that prophecy; it can come any day, any time, any hour. It could come this moment, it could come at midday – at midnight, at twilight, at the dawning of the eastern sun. It is this event that Paul speaks of especially.
The second event, the coming of our Lord openly with His people [Revelation 19:11, 14], with the armies and hosts of heaven, "When every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him: and when the tribes and families and kindred of the earth shall wail because of Him" [Revelation 1:7]. That great event is described especially and particularly by the apostle John; and that is the great unveiling, the great apocalypse, the great revelation of our Lord, described here in the consummating book of the Bible.
Now between those two great, vast, coming events, the septenary series of these judgments are placed. Between the two, these things come to pass: these judgments of God upon this earth, and each one severer than the one before. The seven seals [Revelation 6:1-8:1], the seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2-11:19], the seven bowls of wrath [Revelation 15:1-16:21], and finally the tremendous coming of our Lord [Revelation 19:11-21]. There is one thing revealed in this book that is of an amazing, an astonishing thing that God does in the earth, and that is in the days of the judgment and the visitation and the wrath of the Lord God Almighty; in those days there is a work of grace that God carries on beyond anything the world has ever seen. That work of grace is described in the seventh chapter of the Book of the Revelation. It is an interposition, it is an interlude, and it covers this period of time when the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God by these who are sealed by the Holy Spirit from heaven has an effect and a power and a result that is beyond anything the earth has ever known [Revelation 7:2-17].
Isn’t that an astonishing and an astounding thing? When persecution is at its fiercest, and when men are at their blasphemenest, and when the powers of Satan are unrestrained – yet in that day, and in that hour, and in that darkness, there is a work of grace beyond anything the world has ever seen. That’s so astonishing to me! You would think when Satan rides the hardest, and when sin is in the highest, and when the earth is given over to the vast, illimitable, indescribable judgments of God, and when the saints of the Almighty are persecuted unto death, you would think that such opposition and such persecution and such terror would wipe out the Christian faith from the earth. It’s just the opposite. It’s just the opposite.
And if I could expatiate on that for just a moment, one of the strangest things about Christianity is this: it dies in ease and in luxury and in acceptance – it washes out. It gets to be an editorial. It gets to be a philosophy. It gets to be a theology. It gets to be a discussion. It gets to be a problematical, hypothetical theory. It gets to be something "maybe and maybe not." But when Christianity is pressed, and when the people of God fall into terrible persecution, then Christianity becomes life, and it becomes blood, and it becomes sacrifice, and it becomes tears, and it becomes powerful! Our people did more for God, were truer, were finer, were nobler when they lived in dens and caves of the earth, and wandered around in sheepskins and goatskins [Hebrews 11:37-38], than they do in the luxury and the affluence of an acceptable society.
Don’t you ever fear that persecution and darkness and horror destroy the Christian faith: it was born in blood and in tears and in persecution. And I repeat, one of the marvelous and astonishing things revealed here in the Word of God is that in those days of great judgment, the greatest work of God in grace, in salvation, in the washing, cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb comes to pass.
There are seven great movements that bring in the final coming of our Lord and the establishment of His kingdom in the earth. There are seven things that characterize that period; there are seven things that come to pass before the great establishment of Christ’s messianic kingdom in the earth. Those seven are, first: peace, peace. These men – and we have them all the time, who present themselves as being the great soter, the great savior to lead us out, to keep us from war, to solve all of our economic problems; and you know that pattern is repeated over and over and over again. We have a president now who went up and down this land, and he promised everybody everything he could think of. He had the answers to all of the problems. He had a new day and a new frontier and a new program; and just turn all of this over to him, and by and by we were coming into a millennial age. He could do it. He wasn’t going to put us in debt; he’s going to make these things pay for themselves, he’s going to balance the budget. He had all of the answers. The fiscal year of the United States government closed a few days ago, the last day of June, the first day of July, and we – last year, in the midst of our affluence – went over seven billion dollars in debt trying to pay for the crack-brained ideas of some of those eggheads in the national capital of the United States. And the deficit may be greater next year, and it may be greater the next year, and it may be greater the next year.
I have always said that no man can live unless he solves his financial problems, unless he pays his debts. I’ve always said no family could live unless it pays its debts. I have always said no institution could live unless it pays its debts. If it’s a bank, it will go bankrupt. If it’s a business, it will go bankrupt. And the same thing that is true of a man – that is true of a family, that is true of an individual, that is true of an institution, that is true of a bank, that is true of a mercantile establishment – is the same thing that is true of a government: it has to pay its debts! And the astonishing, astounding, illimitable increasing indebtedness of the United States of America is an overwhelming thing. We pay now more to service that debt than we paid for all of the government before 1940. These things bring burden to your soul.
It isn’t that you and I are going to fall into those awful and calamitous times, because we are living on borrowed money; and our prosperity is that phony thing of going in debt, and going in debt, like a man on a splurge. But somewhere, someday, there has to be a reckoning; and that day will be in your children’s time. When you look into their faces, think about those things. Oh! Here I am a thousand miles off – let’s get back on this track again. That pattern always follows, and that’s the first thing about these things that move toward the final end: first, there is always that leader who represents the solution to all of the military and the economic problems of the world.
Then the second great thing is war, war, war [Revelation 6:3-4]: and Daniel says that wars are determined unto the end [Daniel 9:26]. And these people, who in days past – as I remember between the First and the Second World War, I remember those people – they weren’t altogether pacifists, they were people who had great socialistic ideals and they took our battleships out in the middle of the ocean, and they sank them. And they took all of our preparations for defense and discarded them. And they said, "If we will disarm, and if we will not prepare, there won’t be any more war." And when the Second World War came, the United States was caught in one of the most tragic dilemmas that mind or history could ever imagine. And had it not been, I think, for the intervention of God at Dunkirk and in these other areas of the world, I think America would have been destroyed.
Don’t you ever let anyone persuade you that we are going to educate or preach out of the human heart the ape, the claw of a tiger, and the tooth of the lion. It’s there, that black, dark depravity; it’s there in human heart and in the human life. And America ought always to be strong, strong – war!
And the third, famine; and the fourth, pestilence; and the fifth, the persecution of God’s people; and the sixth: the signs of God in the earth of His coming judgment [Revelation 6:5-17]. And the seventh: the final visitation and wrath of the Almighty from above [Revelation 8:1-5] – those are the seven seals. The first, peace: all of our problems solved, delivered from war and conflict, the great leader deliver us out [Revelation 6:1-2]. Second, the red sword of battle [Revelation 6:3-4]; third, the famine that always follows it [Revelation 6:5-6]; fourth, the pestilence that follows in its wake [Revelation 6:7-8]; fifth, the terrible persecution of the people of God [Revelation 6:9-11]. And in those areas where some of these ideas of deliverance and salvation are regnant, there you will find God’s people persecuted unto death at this moment. And the sixth is the signs of God of the coming judgment [Revelation 6:12-17]; and the seventh is that visitation itself [Revelation 8:1-5]; and that’s the seven trumpets [Revelation 8:6-11:19]. Always following that pattern; and we have come to it now, the wrath and the judgment of God upon this earth.
Each one of these septenary series is built alike. Seven: the first four separated from the second three, and the second three divided two and one. And they’re all built like that. These seven trumpets are divided into four and three. And this morning we have the first four, which is the eighth chapter of the book. The first four are general judgments; and they are presented here under the symbols of God’s visitation upon nature: the land, the first one, the land, the trees and the green grass [Revelation 8:7]; the second one on the sea, and the ships and the creatures in the sea [Revelation 8:8-9]; the third on the fountains and rivers of water [Revelation 8:10-11]; and the fourth on the starry heavens [Revelation 8:12]. Then the other three are separate: the fifth and the sixth and the seventh are the awful judgments of God directly upon mankind. The [fifth]: the wall, the door separating between mankind and hell is opened, and all the evil powers of the abyss pour out into this earth [Revelation 9:1-3]. And the sixth: the sixth is that loosing of those four angels who bring into this earth an army of antagonists, of two hundred million horsemen [Revelation 8:10-11], and the seven thunders, and the struggle and martyr and murder of God’s two witnesses [Revelation 11:7]. And the seventh brings in the great, final battle of the day of God Almighty [Revelation 11:15-19] . Then the establishment, the coming of our Lord, and the establishment of His kingdom; oh! such things as you read in the Book!
Now let’s look at it. Revelation 8:7: "The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up, and a third part of the earth was burned up." Now there are many, many fine and able expositors who believe that those things will be literal, just as it says: that there will hail and fire mingled with blood. And I have no quarrel with that whatsoever. For example, in the Old Book, in Exodus 9:22 and following:
And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.
And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt.
Now that actually happened there, in one of the plagues of Egypt [Exodus 9:13-34]. And with all of these things that we’re going to read here in the eighth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, with all of them there are marvelous and devout students who believe these things will happen just like it says: that when it says "hail," it’s going to hail; and when it says fire, it’s going to be fire; and when it says it’s going to be mingled with blood, it’s going to be mingled with blood. And a third part of the trees were burned up, and the green grass burned up, a third part of the earth is going to be burned up.
Now I have no quarrel with that whatsoever. I do not know – that may be the way it’s going to be. Under that first trumpet, there will be hail and fire mingled with blood [Revelation 8:7]. However, I would not be honest with you if I did not tell you that I am of the persuasion that these things symbolize judgments of God. And I have a list here, as we go through, I have a list here; I’ll just read it all to you. I have a list here of things that I think these things mean. Hail represents a sudden, sharp, pointed judgment of God. And if we had time, we’d look at these things in the Bible; so I’ll just mention them. You’ll find that in Isaiah 28:2, 17.
Fire represents an unsurpassing wrath, an unsparing wrath and judgment of God, as He threatened in Deuteronomy 32:22 and Isaiah 33:14. Blood represents death, physical death and moral death. The earth represents the civilized world, constituted authority, the cultural life in which you live. The sea represents the restless masses of humanity: Daniel 7:2-3, Isaiah 57:20-21. And the trees represent the pride of human greatness: Daniel 4:10, Daniel 4: 20-22, Ezekiel 31:3-18. And the grass represents men, people, generally: Isaiah 40:6-7. And the green grass would refer to the best and the finest, the flower of mankind. A mountain represents a kingdom, a firmly established power: Jeremiah 51:25.
A star, which is called here a "lamp," from Revelation 1:20, I would suppose that a star would be a great leader and teacher, and a lamp would be a church. And when it speaks of a fallen star and a fallen lamp [Revelation 8:10], it represents an apostate teacher and an apostate church. The rivers and the fountains that are poison represent the sources of life, of salvation, of doctrine; and when they are poisoned by an apostate teacher, people die without the truth.
Now, let’s go through it quickly. We must, we must hurry. I haven’t even started this morning. Tell you what you do; you listen on the radio if you can, to the 11:00 o’clock service: I’m going to deliver at 11:00 o’clock, the sermon I prepared. And you listen to it. We’re going,you ought to listen to it. This has a great message in it, and I haven’t even come to the message. This has a tremendous message in it, and I hate for you not to listen to it. Now just as quickly as we can.
"The first angel sounded, and there followed hail," a sharp, pointed judgment of God, "and fire," a devastating judgment of God, "mingled with blood," it brought death; and these were cast upon the earth. "And a third part of the trees," the pride and the glory of man was cut down, burned up, "and all the green grass was burned up" [Revelation 8:7], the finest flower of the earth was taken away; "and a third part of the earth was burned up" [Revelation 8:7, NASB], in the desolation of terrible conflict and war. Now you notice it’s a third part, not the whole thing. God still hopes that men will repent. If we had time, we’d just stop here and talk about the reluctance of God to destroy the wicked. That is one of the most astonishing things you can find in the Book and in the history of life. Why doesn’t God wipe out the evil? Why doesn’t God burn up the wicked? Why doesn’t God intervene in the awful, awful sins of mankind? "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?" [Ezekiel 33:11] Just a third part, just a third part.
"Then the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain" – see, not a mountain – "as it were a great mountain," that is a kingdom, an established power, "burning with fire," rent asunder by some kind of a terrible paroxysm, a social revolution destroyed, "and it was cast into the masses of seething humanity" [Revelation 8:8]. I don’t try to identify these things; but I can tell you what it’s kind of like. You could have that kind of a thing cast into a sea of seething humanity when Russia or China dabbles in those terrible, terrible things that overwhelm peoples and nations. A mountain as it were, an established kingdom, burning with fire, cast into the seething mass of humanity. "And a third part of the sea became blood." Out of those awful revolutions, a third part of the people were destroyed. "And a third part of the creatures were destroyed," the people. "And a third part of the ships were destroyed" [Revelation 8:8-9], commerce fell apart.
"And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp" [Revelation 8:10]. You see, he says so many times "as it were." That’s why I think the thing is not an actual thing in itself, but it is a symbol of something. And I think, if we read the Bible, we can find the symbol. So when it says a star, why, the star was the angel of the church, and the church was a lamp to shine into a dark world [Revelation 1:20]; and when the star and the lamp fall, why, that’s an apostate teacher and an apostate church:
And it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the third part of the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters, and the fountains were burned up, were made bitter
Well, that is a picture of the terrible tragedy of apostate teaching, of terrible doctrine: it poisons the fountains of life. Where we are told the truth of God and how we can be saved, these things are poisoned by these who turn aside from the true revelation of God. Well:
And a fourth angel sounded, and a third part of the sun was smitten, and a third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so that the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise
That is, this terrible teaching, this apostate teaching darkened God’s glorious light. And I just see that all the time. The sun for to shine, and the moon for to give light, and the stars for the glory of God, darkened by the fall of these who are to be shining lights in the earth – the darkening of apostate teaching.
Then he hears this eagle: "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth" [Revelation 8:13]. God is still hoping that men will repent. And that’s why the admonition, and that’s why the sign, that’s why the cry: that men might be warned, and might repent.
May I close, for I have to.
Every time God does anything in judgment upon men, He always warns them.
"Look! Look! You, look!" God says, always. "Adam, Adam," and He warned Adam [Genesis 2:17]. The antediluvians: "And Noah preached a hundred twenty years" [Genesis 6:3]. Samaria, Israel, Judah, God warned them.
I one time heard L. R. Scarborough say that there are six hundred signs in the Bible warning a man, "This road leads to hell." In your personal life, when you fall into sin, God will put warnings, and warnings, and warnings, and warnings: "This isn’t right. This leads to disaster. This leads to judgment." God does that in every man’s life; just like He did it throughout, ever since He created matter.
"Oh, turn," says the Lord. "Turn," says the Lord. "Turn," says the Lord. And if a man turns, God saves him, God keeps him, God preserves him. If he doesn’t turn, the judgment comes. Always, the judgment comes. But the Lord warns in His mercy and in His goodness. May He bless us as we seek to learn at His blessed feet and humbly to follow in His way.
Now, on the first note of this first stanza – and we sing one stanza – on the first note of this first stanza, if God bids you this morning, come. On the first note of this first stanza, into that aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, preacher, here I stand; here I come." And while we make this appeal, you come, put your heart in the hand of Christ and your life in the arms of Jesus, put your destiny in Him; or to put your life in the church. While we sing, you come, while we stand and while we sing.