A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 8: Summary and Highlights
In the following preterist Bible commentary on Revelation 8 the reader will be exposed to first century historical events that fulfill every verse in Revelation 8. The Roman army responded to the Jewish revolt around the time of the Feast of Trumpets. Thus began the Jewish War. And because the Jews and Romans both sounded the start of every battle at the sound of a trumpet, in every event that fulfills the seven trumpets of Revelation an audible trumpet sound was likely heard. Revelation 8 opens with a half hour of silence in which an angel lights incense at the Temple altar. Did Josephus record the earthly mirror of this event when he mentions a miraculous half hour of light at the Temple altar in A.D. 66 at the start of the Jewish revolt? Shortly thereafter the seven trumpet plagues began to unfold. In Revelation 8:7 blood rained on the earth and much of the land was burned. During the Jewish War, the Romans burned much of Israel as part of Rome’s scorched earth policy. Meanwhile it rained blood in Italy such that rivers of blood flowed throughout the land according to Cassius Dio. Josephus also mentions a star that circled for a year at the start of the Jewish revolt. Was this Wormwood of Revelation 8:11? Then in Revelation 8:8-9 a mountain or city is thrown into the sea. The sea then turns to blood and the creatures in the sea die and the ships are destroyed. This prediction was fulfilled when the Romans attacked two mountains or cities along the Galilean coast. Many of the people of these two mountains or cities were killed at sea and their ships destroyed leaving the sea “bloody a long way”1 Revelation 8 ends with an eagle proclaiming the following warning in v. 13: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth!” In his account of the Jewish War, the Jewish historian Josephus records a voice echoing the above warning with the words, “Woe! Woe to Jerusalem!”2 See the details in the following preterist commentary on Revelation 8.
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 8: The Roman Assault on Israel Began around the Feast of Trumpets Hence the Seven Trumpets of Revelation—Thus Began the Jewish War.
In A.D. 66 while Judea was aflame in bloodshed, riot and revolt, Rome responded by sending the 12th legion in addition to thousands of auxiliaries from neighboring kingdoms. These troops, as if orchestrated by God, arrived in Jerusalem in the Jewish month of Tishri, a month that begins with the Feast of Trumpets. Called the Day of Judgment, it is on this day that trumpets sound the somber days of atonement and final judgment (Leviticus 23:24, Numbers 29:1). Thus began the Jewish War.3
The A.D. 70 Doctrine View, Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 8: In Every Event that Fulfills the Seven Trumpets of Revelation an Audible Trumpet Sound Was Heard.
The seven angels of Revelation 8 take part in this special Feast of Trumpets blowing their horns together with those of the Jewish rebels, the result being the worst war in Israel’s history. Revelation 8 describes the judgments resulting from these trumpet blasts as a series of battles and disasters the Jewish people faced at the hands of the Romans prior to the siege of Jerusalem. Furthermore, because the bulk of these plagues were the result of different battles throughout the war, the angels announce each disaster with the blowing of a trumpet. Trumpets were used by both the Jewish and Roman military in order to sound an attack and rally troops for war.4 In fact, all seven plagues where announced by a literal, audible trumpet sound. Thus the symbolic use of trumpets in Revelation 8 is also literal in that an actual trumpet blast marked the start of several notable battles, with the war itself beginning on the Feast of Trumpets.
Revelation 8 Commentary Intro: Each Plague is a Plague of Exodus.
The language of each plague is wrapped-up in the language of Exodus. In Deuteronomy 28:58-60, God threatens that if his people depart from the Law, he will bring on them the plagues of Exodus. In this chapter, Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary–Who is Apollyon? and Revelation 16: A Preterist Commentary the reader will see how each plague of Exodus unfolded throughout the course of the Jewish War.
Revelation 8 Commentary Intro: Each Plague was Largely Fulfilled in the Order Listed in Revelation.
The consequences of the seven trumpets all unfold chronologically throughout the war with perhaps a few exceptions. Much of the fourth bowl of Revelation 16:8-9 was fulfilled prior to the previous two bowls. The consequences of the third trumpet actually unfolded after the darkening of the sky mentioned in the fourth trumpet. Though the fulfillment of the other plagues seems to more or less follow the timeline of Revelation, this exception seems to have had a good reason. The second and third plagues are poetically linked. Together they fully encapsulate the plague of blood described in Exodus. If these two plagues had been separated in order to hold true to the order of their historical fulfillment, the plague of blood would have been interrupted by the plague of darkness, thus diminishing the poetic beauty, coherence and natural flow of the vision. Another partial exception concerns the fifth trumpet. This plague is unique in that it may have been fulfilled twice. Though the initial fulfillment occurs on schedule, the secondary fulfillment seems to have occurred later.
1When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. 3Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. 4The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightening and an earthquake.5 6Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
Preterist Theology, A Commentary of Revelation 8:3-4: What Were the Prayers of the Saints in vs. 3-4?
Everything was silent in heaven for half an hour during which seven angels were given seven trumpets, and another angel lit a censor in response to the prayers of the saints. The prayers mentioned in v. 4 are those spoken of in Luke 18:7-8: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” These prayers for justice are also mentioned in Revelation 6:9-10:
When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
The prayers that ascended to God in v. 4 are prayers for vengeance. Jewish Christians had been persecuted in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus’ death (Acts 8:1-3). These people wanted justice, and the coming plagues of Revelation 8 and Revelation 9 are God’s answer to their prayers.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 8:1-4: The Half Hour in which an Angel Lights Incense at the Altar in vs. 1-4 Appears to be linked to the Miraculous Half Hour of Light at the Temple Altar in A.D. 66.
The heavenly events described in the first seven verses of this chapter were fulfilled over a six month time frame beginning in Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar, of A.D. 66. The heavenly events of vs. 1-3 are supernaturally mirrored on earth in the following miracle: “on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, [Nisan,] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour [emphasis mine].” The “silence in heaven for about half an hour” in Revelation 8:1 in which the angel lights incense before the altar appears to correspond with the miracle of the half hour of light shining around the altar documented by Josephus above (see How the “Thunder, Rumblings, Flashes of Lightning and Earthquake” of Revelation 8:5 where Fulfilled in the Jewish War and What These Signs Suggest About the Timing of the Parousia).
7The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
Revelation 8:7 Commentary: The First Trumpet is the Seventh Plague of Exodus.
This verse calls to mind the seventh plague of Exodus. In Exodus 9:23-25, God sent hail and fire upon the land of Egypt. This plague of hail and fire, like the first trumpet of Revelation, destroyed the plants and trees of the land.
Revelation 8:7 Commentary: The Blood of Revelation 8:7 Points to Matthew 27:25.
The blood that falls from heaven in v. 7 points back to Jesus’ public trial and crucifixion. While Pilate washed his hands over Jesus’ death, the Jewish mob claimed responsibility by saying, “His blood be on us and our children (Matthew 27:24-25).” The fact that, that generation of Israelites was punished with blood from heaven appears to be a divine omen that first century Israel was being punishment at the end of the age for the crime of killing the Messiah and his people as is indicated in Revelation 17:6. In Revelation 8:7 Christ appears to remember what His killers said and he honors their words, “His blood be on us and our children,” by raining blood on that wicked generation.
Revelation 8:7 Preterist Commentary: Hail, Fire and Blood from Siege Engines . . .
The hail, fire and blood mentioned in this verse were possibly all the result of Roman siege works. Predicting the impending siege and fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian army in 588 B.C., Ezekiel poetically describes this siege in Ezekiel 13:10-15 in imagery denoting the coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven as it is described in Psalm 18:7-15. In Ezekiel 13:10-15 the coming Babylonian siege of Jerusalem is described as a storm with violent wind, flooding rain and hailstones—all signs of the coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven according to Psalm 18:7-15. Ezekiel 13:13-14 predicts the fact that Jerusalem’s walls would fall by violent wind, rain and hailstones:
Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “I will make a violent wind break out in My wrath. There will also be in My anger a flooding rain and hailstones to consume it in wrath. So I will tear down the wall which you plastered over with whitewash and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation is laid bare; and when it falls, you will be consumed in its midst.
The fall of the wall mentioned in v. 14 was fulfilled in 588 B.C. It was at this time that the Babylonian army by means of a battering ram broke through a wall in Jerusalem before massacring the people within the city.6 Ezekiel 13:13 also mentions “flooding rain.” Floods frequently symbolize invading foreign armies as is clearly indicated in Isaiah 8:7-8; 17:12; Jeremiah 46:7-8; Daniel 9:26; 11:10; 11:40; Joel 2:9 and Nahum 1:8. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations and The Poetic Biblical Link Between “Sea” and “Abyss”.
But what about the hailstones? The hailstones mentioned in Ezekiel 13:13 also appear to be related to the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. As stated above in 588 B.C., the Babylonians used a battering ram to topple the city wall. This battering ram was defended by siege towers from which soldiers shot arrows and hurled stones at the people defending the city walls.7 The hailstones mentioned in Ezekiel 13:13 appear to be these stones launched at the people of Jerusalem during this siege.8
The hail mentioned in Revelation 8:7 also appears to symbolize stones launched by enemy soldiers into Jerusalem. However, these hailstones of Revelation 8:7 were probably much larger than the stones launched into Jerusalem during its fall in 588 B.C. The hailstones of Revelation 8:7 were boulders launched by Roman catapults. According to Josephus, these boulders were white and thus looked like giant hail stones when they fell to the earth.9
The fire represents flaming arrows and other firebrands launched by Roman archers or siege engines. During a siege, flammable materials were frequently launched into a city in order to burn provisions or start random fires to distract soldiers from defending their walls. During the siege of Jotapata, one of the cities besieged by the Romans earlier in the war, Josephus states that firebrands were launched into the city:
At the same time such engines as were intended for that purpose threw at once lances upon them with a great noise, and stones of the weight of a talent were thrown by the engines that were prepared for that purpose, together with fire, and a vast multitude of arrows, which made the wall so dangerous, that the Jews durst not only not come upon it, but durst not come to those parts within the walls which were reached by the engines [emphasis mine].10
The fact that this “hail and fire [was] mixed with blood” paints a picture of these stones and firebrands hurled by the Romans becoming bloody upon hitting their human targets up on the city walls and then raining down on the occupants of the city below. The blood that fell from the sky, like the hail and fire mentioned above, may have also been launched by Roman siege engines. During a siege, an offending army might launch diseased corpses into the closed quarters of a city in order to induce an epidemic. Perhaps it was this that caused the plague of boils in Revelation 16:2? Heads and other body parts of captured foes might also be catapulted into the city in order to stir up panic or encourage early surrender.
Preterist Bible Commentary on Revelation 8:7: A Third of the Earth Burned in v. 7 because of Rome’s Scorched-Earth Policy.
Throughout Revelation, the earth represents Israel and the sea, Rome. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. In v.7, “A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” These verses are literally fulfilled in Israel, the earth, during the Jewish War as a result of the Roman army’s scorched earth policy:
He [Titus] also at the same time gave his soldiers leave to set the suburbs on fire, and ordered that they should bring timber together, and raise banks against the city. . . . So the trees were now cut down immediately, and the suburbs left naked” [emphasis mine].11
Here one can see how the earth, trees and grass were set on fire in v.7. Further confirmation of how the land was left burned and desolate can again be found in The Wars of the Jews: “Now this country [Jericho] is then so sadly burnt up that nobody care [sic] to come at it…”12 “[N]or did the Romans . . . leave off either by night or by day, burning the places in the plain . . . so that Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood. . . .”13 Did you also notice the reference to fire and blood here like that predicted in v. 7? “He [Vespasian] also set fire, not only to the city [of Gadara] itself, but to all the villas and small cities that were round about it. . . .” Much of the rest of Israel was also left charred and desolate, suffering the same fate as that of Jerusalem, Jericho, Gadara and Galilee mentioned above.14
8The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, 9a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Revelation 8:8-9 Commentary: The Second Trumpet is the First Plague of Exodus.
The second trumpet blast is the first plague of Exodus, the plague of blood. In this plague, Moses struck the Nile and it turned to blood killing all the fish of the river (Exodus 7:20-21).
Revelation 8:8 Commentary: Mountains Represent Kingdoms in the Bible.
Mountain is a word frequently used in the Bible to symbolize a kingdom or city since cities were often built on mountains for military defense (Psalms 2:6; 48:1; Isaiah 66:20; Jeremiah 51:25; Joel 3:17).15 For example, the city of Jerusalem is often called the “Mountain of the Lord” throughout the Bible. Sea represents the Gentile nations (Daniel 7:2-3; Revelation 17:15, Psalm 65:7; 144:7; Isaiah 8:7-8; 17:12; 60:5; Jeremiah 47:1-2; 51:55-56; Ezekiel 26:3). See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. Because sea and Abyss, the afterlife realm of the dead, are synonyms, sea simultaneously signifies both foreign nations and the Abyss, the afterlife realm of the dead. See The Poetic Biblical Link Between “Sea” and “Abyss”.
This symbol of a mountain being cast into the sea is a common metaphor in the Bible used to represent two complimentary messages. Foreign nations and their armies represent the sea or Abyss, the realm of the dead, because these armies cause so much death when in the act of war and military conquest. Thus the city or mountain victimized by foreign military aggression is sometimes depicted in the Bible as a mountain descending into the Abyss, the land of the dead, when attacked by aggressive foreign powers. Jeremiah 51:25, 42 is a prominent example of this symbolism. In these verses, mountain represents a city or kingdom and sea represents its foreign conquerors and the Abyss simultaneously:
“I am against you, you destroying mountain [Babylon], you who destroy the whole earth,” declares the Lord. “I will stretch out my hand against you, roll you off the cliffs, and make you a burned-out mountain. . . . The sea will rise over Babylon; its roaring waves will cover her.”
When the city of Babylon fell in 539 B.C. the city was not overcome by literal flood waters just as the mountain city mentioned in Revelation 8:8 was not literally thrown into a literal sea. Rather, in Jeremiah 51:25, 42, Babylon, the destroying mountain, is punished by the rising sea representing the foreign armies of the Medes and Persians. Here foreign conquest and the resulting death toll are presented as the sea or Abyss flooding over Babylon. Not surprisingly floods are also a metaphor of death and foreign conquest (Isaiah 8:7-8; 17:12; Jeremiah 46:7-8; Daniel 9:26; 11:10; 11:40; Joel 2:9; Nahum 1:8). The mountain cast into the sea in Revelation 8:8 conveys a similar message of death by way of foreign military conquest. Interestingly, Revelation 8:8 was fulfilled in a similarly figurative manner during the Jewish War. However, vs. 8 and 9 were fulfilled much, more literally than you might think based upon this comparison above.
A Realized Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 8:8: The Mountain Thrown into the Sea during the Jewish War . . .
The cities of Joppa and Taricheae were situated on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. Upon the arrival of the Roman military, the Jewish rebels of these two cities retreated out to sea. There the rough waves and heavy winds at the coast of Joppa drowned many people. Their ships were also destroyed as they struck each other and the rocks along the coast. Many people fell into the water and according to Josephus were “dashed to pieces” against the rocks “insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way[.]”16 The city of Taricheae did not fare better. Upon fleeing to the Sea of Galilee, the rebels of Taricheae were killed by the Romans. Concerning their deaths at sea, Josephus writes:
One might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over the country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled” [emphasis mine].17
In the quote above one can appreciate the literal fulfillment of Revelation 8:8-9 with the destruction of ships, the sea turning to blood, and the deaths of those at sea.18 Not only were the mountains of Joppa and Tricheae conquered by Rome, a foreign army representing the sea or Abyss in Revelation 8:8, but the people of these two cities were quite literally thrown into the sea–the sea of Galilee–and subsequently killed and therefore cast into the sea representing the Abyss, the realm of the dead.
Interestingly there appears to be a dual fulfillment to the mountain thrown into the sea in Revelation 8:8-9. The second trumpet which was fulfilled in the fall of Joppa and Tricheae foreshadows the fall of Jerusalem. In Matthew 21:10 Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. Then after entering the Temple, Jesus drives out the money changers. That night Jesus left Jerusalem to spend the night in Bethany which was just outside of Jerusalem (Matthew 21:17). Then in the morning on His way back to Jerusalem, Jesus says to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:21-22).” The mountain that Jesus was referring to in these verses was the mountain that stood right in front of them at that time–Jerusalem, God’s Holy Mountain (Psalm 2:6). In Matthew 21:21-22 Jesus promised the saints that if they prayed for Jerusalem, God’s Holy Mountain, to be cast into the sea, it would be done.
The prayers of the saints to have Jerusalem thrown into the sea is implied in Revelation 6:9-11 when the saints prayed for vengeance for their unjust deaths:19
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been [emphasis mine].
In the vs. above, God’s holy martyrs are depicted praying for vengeance. The blame for their unjust deaths was placed on Jerusalem. In Luke 13:33 Jesus declares, “[N]o prophet can die outside of Jerusalem!” Then in Matthew 23:34-36, Jesus says that all the righteous blood that has been shed on the earth would be placed on Jerusalem:
Therefore I am sending you [the people of Jerusalem] prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you[.] [Emphasis mine.]
When Jesus said that all the righteous blood that had been shed on the earth would be placed on Jerusalem He meant that regardless of where a prophet died the blame for the deed would be placed on Jerusalem because of her lengthy history of killing the prophets. Interestingly, the people of Jerusalem accepted the blame for the unjust deaths of the righteous when after chanting to have Jesus crucified during Jesus’ trial before Pilate, the people of Jerusalem are recorded saying, “His blood is on us and on our children (Matthew 27:25)!”
In Revelation 6:9-11 the martyrs prayed for vengeance. Reading between the lines it seems obvious that the prayers of the righteous dead were to have the mountain of Jerusalem, the city responsible for their unjust deaths, cast into the sea. Matthew 21:21-22 reads, “Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain [Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the city that the Disciples were facing at the time], ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” In fulfillment of Matthew 21:21-22 God honored these prayers. Jerusalem was cast into the sea in A.D. 70 when the foreign armies of the Romans, the metaphorical sea (Daniel 7:2-3; Revelation 17:15, Psalm 65:7; 144:7; Isaiah 8:7-8; 17:12; 60:5; Jeremiah 47:1-2; 51:55-56; Ezekiel 26:3), destroyed and conquered Jerusalem also known as Mount Zion. Thus the blazing mountain thrown into the sea in Revelation 8:8-9 was also fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans, the sea, destroyed and burned Jerusalem, Mount Zion, during its conquest in A.D. 70.
10The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—11the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of the End Times and Revelation 8:10-11: Is Wormwood the Comet of A.D. 66?
Comets were ominous omens. In The Wars of the Jews, Josephus mentions a comet that ran across the sky for a whole year.20 Could this falling star be Wormwood?
Revelation 8:10-11 Commentary: Just Like the Falling Star of Revelation 9:1-3 was Clearly an Angel that Enacted the Fifth Trumpet Plague, the Falling Star of Revelation 8:10-11 is also likely to be an Angel sent to Cause the Third Trumpet Plague.
Though it is possible that Revelation 8:10-11 describes a real comet, this star from heaven ultimately seems to symbolize or represents one of the seven angels of the seven plagues. This star likely is or represents the angel of the third plague. In Revelation 12:4, Satan is said to cast a third of the stars to the earth. These stars are clearly the angels of heaven. Stars frequently represent angels in the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:19; Judges 5:20; Job 25:5; 38:7; Psalm 148:3; Isaiah 14:12-14; Daniel 12:3; Revelation 9:1-2).
The fact that Wormwood is an angel is implied in Revelation 9:1-3. The fifth trumpet is very similar to the third trumpet in that both plagues begin with a falling star. However, in Revelation 9:1-3 it is clear that this star is an angel or being from heaven as it carried the key to the bottomless pit which it later opens with this key. In Revelation 9:1-3 the fifth plague is ultimately caused by the actions of this falling star introduced at the start of this plague. This star is, of course, an angel or heavenly being. The same meaning is implied in the third plague of Revelation 8:10-11. In Revelation 8:10-11 a falling star causes the waters to become bitter. Thus in both Revelation 9:1-3 and Revelation 8:10-11 the star that falls from heaven at the start of these plagues appears to represent the angel or heavenly being whose job it is to enact that particular plague.
The falling star of Revelation 8:10-11 also appears to be an omen foreshadowing impending doom. Don Preston notes that the falling star of the third trumpet calls to mind the fall of Edom and Zion in the Old Testament. Concerning the defeat of Edom by its enemies, Obadiah 1:4 reads, “’Though you [Edom] build high like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,’ declares the Lord.” Poetically describing the fall of Zion in the sixth century B.C. by the Babylonians, Lamentations 2:1 reads, “He has cast [Zion] from heaven to earth the glory of Israel[.]” As implied in Obadiah 1:4 and Lamentations 2:1, the falling star of Revelation 8:10-11 is also an omen pointing to the fall of a kingdom.21
Revelation 8:10-11 Commentary: The Third Trumpet is also the First Plague of Exodus. The Rivers Turned Bitter in v. 11 because they were Turned to Blood.
Before identifying this kingdom, let us first discuss the similarities between the third bowl and third trumpet and the first plague of Exodus. The third trumpet is also the third bowl of Revelation 16:4. The third bowl explains why the waters became bitter in Revelation 8:11. In the third bowl, the rivers turned to blood. According to Levitical Law, Jews were not permitted to drink blood. Therefore, this bloody water would be undrinkable to them. These two verses are a continuation of the plague of blood where emphasis is placed on the waters being undrinkable, as they had been to the Egyptians in Exodus 7:21. The Egyptians in Exodus also did not drink the water because it gave off a foul odor. Just as the Nile River had turned bloody and smelled of decay, the same thing occurred at the Jordan River during the Jewish War.
Revelation 8:10-11 Preterist Commentary: Blood in the Dead Sea and the Jordan River . . .
Jews fleeing from Gadara were cornered by the Romans at the Jordan River and there 15,000 Jews were killed. Concerning this massacre at the river, Josephus writes, “[The] Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltitis [the Dead Sea] was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river.”22
Wormwood is a plant with a strong, bitter flavor. This is a fitting name for a star that turns the waters bitter. It must also be said that the waters of Israel were not just bitter because of the presence of blood, the water of the lake Asphalitis was already bitter. Concerning this lake, Josephus writes, “The nature of the lake Asphaltitis is also worth describing. It is, as I have said already, bitter and unfruitful [emphasis mine].”23
Concerning the presence of bitterness or wormwood during the Jewish War and its aftermath, Rabbi Abin says the following interesting quote in the Midrash Lamentations:
He hath filled me with bitterness (Lam. 3:15): on the first nights of the Passover Festival. He hath sated me with wormwood: on the ninth of Ab [the day in which the first and second temples were destroyed]. What He filled me with on the first nights of Passover, therewith He sated me on the nights of the ninth of Ab, viz. wormwood. The nights of the week on which the first day of Passover occurs is always the same as that on which the ninth of Ab falls.24
Is Revelation 8:10-11 also fulfilled during and after the Jewish War in the bitter lamentation of the Jews referred to as “wormwood” according to the Midrash?
Revelation 8:10-11 Preterist Commentary: Revelation 8:10-11 was Also Fulfilled in the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Similar to the second trumpet of vs. 8-9, some or perhaps all of these trumpet plagues appear to have dual fulfillment in the fall of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was in a marriage covenant with God (Isaiah 54:5). However, in Revelation 17 she is pictured committing adultery against God, her spiritual husband. In Revelation 17 Jerusalem, the whore or Babylon, is pictured sitting on the beast as if in the act of adultery with the beast which is Rome. Because of her adulterous affair with Rome, Jerusalem is called the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17. And as a consequence is given Rome’s epithet, Babylon, throughout the Book of Revelation because according to 1 Corinthians 6:16 “[T]he one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her[.] For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” Because Rome and Jerusalem became one flesh as a consequence of their adulterous affair, both cities are called Babylon throughout the Apocalypse.
Numbers 5:11-31 lays out a ceremonial custom by which a married man may test to see if his wife has committed adultery. In Numbers 5:11-31 the wife under suspicion is made to drink bitter water which is expected to bring a curse if she is guilty of infidelity. This prophetic custom is fulfilled in Revelation 8:10-11. In Revelation 8:10-11 Jerusalem is made to drink bitter waters which brings a curse in v. 11 because of her adultery with the beast mentioned in Revelation 17. Interestingly, sixth century Jerusalem was also charged with adultery in Jeremiah 9:2 and thus made to drink water made bitter by wormwood in Jeremiah 9:15. The same message is also conveyed to sixth century Jerusalem in Ezekiel 23. Here Jerusalem and Samaria are portrayed as sisters who together commit adultery against God. As a result Samaria is destroyed by the Assyrians, and Jerusalem is made to drink from the same cup that brings ruin in Ezekiel 23:32-34. This cup is, of course, a cup filled with bitter water which brings a curse which first century Jerusalem may also be made to drink in Revelation 8:10-11.
12The fourth angel sounded 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 turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.
Revelation 8:12 Commentary: The Fourth Trumpet is the Ninth Plague of Exodus.
This is the plague of darkness. And like the plague of darkness recorded in Exodus which preceded the death of a future king,25 this darkness appears to have had a similar consequence.
Revelation 8:12 Preterist Commentary: During a Thunderstorm which Presumably Darkened the Sun, Moon and Stars, the Idumeans Broke into Jerusalem and killed the High Priest Ananus II and Thousands of People in the City Mirroring the Way in Which Similar Astrological Imagery was Fulfilled in Old Testament History (Isaiah 13:9-10, Ezekiel 32:7-8 and Amos 8:9).
When God descends in judgment on a nation, He is said to part the heavens and ride the dark clouds of the sky which obscures the brightness of his presence according to Psalm 18:7-15 and Joel 2:1-11. The cloud that appears to hide the likeness of God is called the Glory Cloud. (Though to be perfectly accurate God can only be seen by people in visions see If No Man can see God and Live, How Could Jesus be Seen during the Parousia?.) Whenever God was said to come on the clouds in judgment on a nation, he did so amidst the Glory Cloud. As seen in Ezekiel 32:7-8, the same cloud that appears to hide the likeness of God also darkens the sky, making the sun, moon and stars invisible. The fact that all the heavenly lights are darkened by the Glory Cloud means that the spirit of God is present on the clouds of heaven to enact vengeance on his people.
In Revelation 8:12, John indicates that one-third of the sun, moon and stars are darkened. In the next sentence, he explains what this means. One-third of the sun, moon and stars darken because a third of the day and a third of the night are without light. In other words, cloud cover during a violent storm indicative of the presence of God in the Glory Cloud appears to have darkened these lights for eight hours or one-third of the day.
The darkening of these heavenly bodies foreshadows and appears to symbolize the elimination of a leader and his people. Similar imagery is found in Isaiah 13:9-10, Ezekiel 32:7-8 and Amos 8:9. In these verses, as is the case in Revelation 8:12, the darkening of the sun, moon and stars signifies political upheaval and the fall or death of a ruler and his people. Ezekiel 32 predicts the fall of Pharaoh and a great slaughter of his people (Ezekiel 32:12). This prediction was accurately fulfilled approximately six hundred years before the birth of Christ. At this time the sun, moon and stars are darkened by the dark clouds of the Glory Cloud: “When I snuff you [Pharaoh] out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land . . . (Ezekiel 32:7-8)” The darkening of the sun, moon and stars in Revelation 8:12 as is the case in Ezekiel 32:7-8 is also presumably the result of the masking effect of the dark clouds of the Glory Cloud, the quintessential sign of the coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven in judgment.
In Wars of the Jews, Josephus describes a prodigious thunderstorm of so considerable a nature that it seemed to him to be almost supernatural, as if God himself were present in the sky [in the Glory Cloud].26 The thick cloud cover of this storm would have naturally blotted out the heavenly lights bringing literal darkness over Jerusalem. And as is the case in Isaiah 13:9-10, Ezekiel 32:7-8 and Amos 8:9, this darkness also brought strife and the death of a leader and his people. In the midst of this storm which would be expected to darken the sun, moon and stars due to the thick clouds of the Glory Cloud, an army of Idumeans broke into Jerusalem and killed thousands of people including the high priest, Ananus II.27 Thus Revelation 8:12 appears to follow the precedence set in Ezekiel 32. In both cases the sun, moon and stars were darkened by thick cloud cover with the darkening of these luminaries foreshadowing the death of a leader and his people.
13As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 8:13 Commentary: Before the Jewish War a Voice Was Heard Crying the Eagle’s Warning of v. 13: “Woe! Woe to Jerusalem!”
Four years before the Jewish War began, Jesus the son of Ananus was heard, though never seen at this time, crying the warning issued in v. 13: “Woe, Woe to Jerusalem!”28 Perhaps his voice is the voice of the eagle in v. 13 crying, “Woe, Woe to the inhabitants of the earth”? As already stated, earth represents Jerusalem and Israel throughout the Book of Revelation. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. Therefore, both the eagle and Jesus the son of Ananus bellowed the same warning.29
Interestingly, there is more to the identity of this eagle than what has been stated above. Revelation 8:13 calls to mind the threat for unfaithfulness in Deuteronomy 28:49, the eagle mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:49, like the eagle of Hosea 8:1, is a metaphor for an invading nation. The eagle in Hosea 8 represents the Assyrian army, in Revelation 8:13 it represents Rome. It is perhaps no coincidence that the symbol of first century Rome, like America today, was an eagle. Whenever Rome went to war its legions always carried with them a metal eagle held aloft on a pole called the Aquila. The Aquila which symbolized Rome appears to be the eagle mentioned in v. 13. According to Josephus’ account of the Jewish War, Rome issued repeated warnings to the people of Judea to surrender throughout the Jewish War. In fact, Josephus himself speaking on the behalf of Rome issued many of these warnings himself.30 Here one can see how the eagle of v. 13 representing Rome repeatedly proclaimed “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth” in fulfillment of Revelation 8:13. Israel ignored these warnings. And like an eagle viciously attacking its prey, in the next chapter, Rome continues its ferocious assault on Judea. And in Revelation 9 the outcome of this foreboding omen begins to unfold.31
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
The A.D. 70 Doctrine View, Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 8: Conclusion
In the above preterist commentary on Revelation 8, the reader was shown how all the above prophecies were fulfilled throughout the course of the Jewish War.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.9.3.
- Ibid., 6.5.3.
- In Wars 2.18.9, Josephus indicates that the twelfth legion and a number of auxiliaries arrived in Ptolemais seemingly at the end of Elul or the beginning of Tishri. Josephus describes several brisk marches and brief skirmishes throughout Galilee that would seem to last roughly one month before Josephus states that Cestius had arrived in Lydda. When the Roman general arrived at Lydda, he found the majority of the city had left to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This holiday began on the fifteenth of Tishri and ended on the twenty-second. This gave the Romans about fourteen to twenty-four days to complete the battles described by Josephus in Wars 2.18.9-2.19.1 taking into account the fact that the people of Lydda would have to travel twenty miles to Jerusalem. By my estimation, it seems that the Romans must have begun their attack not more than a couple days away from the Feast of Trumpets, on the first day of Tishri, because fourteen to twenty-four days is a very likely timeframe for the events described in this portion of Wars between the arrival of the Romans and Cestius’ arrival at Lydda.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.5.3; Steve Gregg, ed., Revelation: Four Views a Parallel Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), 146.
- The fact that the angel that is in heaven in v. 5 takes the censor filled with burning coals and hurls it down to the earth explains the falling fire imagery in the first, second, third and fifth trumpets. The darkening of the heavenly lights in the fourth trumpet is perhaps partially a consequence of these stars falling to the earth.
- Martin J. Dougherty and others, Battles of the Bible 1400 BC-AD 73: From Ai to Masada, (New York: Metro Books, 2008), 140.
- Arthur M. Ogden, The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets: Commentary on Revelation, (Pinson, AL: Ogden Publications, 2006), 222.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.6.3. As an interesting side note in The Prose Edda, cutting weapons are represented by “the fires of blood”: “Cutting weapons, such as axes and swords are called the fires of blood.” (Snorri Sturluson The Prose Edda: Skaldskaparmal. References to Battle, Weapons and Armour) Thus according to The Prose Edda, the blood mixed with fire in Revelation 6: 7 may also symbolize Roman swords.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.7.9.
- Ibid., 5.6.2.
- Ibid., 4.8.3.
- Ibid., 3.4.1.
- Ibid., 4.8.3, 4.9.7, 6.1.1. Did the first three trumpets and bowls also afflict Rome? Just before Nero’s death, Cassius Dio writes, “[I]n the Alban territory [in central Italy] it rained so much blood that rivers of it flowed over the land.” (Cassius Dio Roman History 63.26.) Here one can see how blood literally rained down during the Jewish War as indicated in Revelation 8:7. After Nero’s death, Rome was also afflicted by fires as is also predicted in this verse: “Whole towns were burnt down or buried throughout the richest part of the coast of Campania, and Rome suffered severely from fires that destroyed its most venerable temples, the very Capitol being set alight by Roman hands.” (Tacitus The Histories 1.2.) Tacitus then goes on to say that the Mediterranean’s “rocky islets ran with blood.” (Ibid.) Could Tacitus be hinting at the following two trumpets and bowls in which “[a] third of the sea turned into blood” in v. 8 and the springs and rivers became blood in Revelation 16:4. Whether or not Tacitus is to be taken literally here, the rivers of blood mentioned by Cassius Dio may also fulfill these verses.
- In 1 Enoch 18:13 the stars are described as “great, burning mountains.” Thus the mountain thrown into the see may be a falling star. (Stephen S. Smalley, The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2005), 220.)
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.9.3.
- Ibid., 3.10.9.
- Throughout the Book of Revelation earth represents Israel and sea, Rome. The plague of the second trumpet may also be an omen fulfilled in the following year in Rome, the sea. The great mountain or kingdom thrown into the sea may also be Rome. In this text, sea also symbolizes the Abyss, the land of the dead. This mountain cast into the abyss may also signify the death of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13:3. When Nero died, Rome plunged into a civil war that temporarily collapsed the empire. This period of instability is symbolically portrayed as the death of the beast whose corpse bloodies the waters.
- David Chilton, The Great Tribulation, (Fort Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), 97-99.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
- Don K. Preston, Who is This Babylon?, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2011), 244-245.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.7.4-6.
- Ibid., 4.8.4.
- Midrash Rabbah Lamentations Proems 18.
- The plague of darkness preceded the plague of the firstborn in which Pharaoh’s firstborn son and successor died. See Exodus 10:21-23, 12:29.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.4.5.
- Ibid., 4.5.
- Ibid., 6.5.3.
- As discussed in Revelation 10:1-2 and Revelation 11:5-6, it is Jesus Christ who may have appeared in the flesh to the Jews as Jesus the son of Ananus who ultimately leads the Roman army to attack Israel and Jerusalem.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.9; 6.2.
- In this verse, an eagle is said to fly in midair. “In midair” is an incorrect or imprecise translation. The net Bible uses the word mesouranhma which it defines as “a point or region of the sky, midpoint in the sky directly overhead, straight above in the sky.” The identity of the eagle mentioned in this verse is uncertain, though John may be referring to the constellation Aquila, the eagle. The constellation Aquila is found along the celestial equator, the invisible line caused by extending the earth’s equator through space. An observer standing on the earth’s equator will visualize the celestial equator as a semicircle passing directly overhead. For an explanation of why Aquila may be alluded to in this v. see the commentary on Revelation 9.