(Revelation 8 to 10)
The trumpet judgements that will be announced in the tribulation period will in most cases destroy a third of their targets. Both the physical creation and humanity will be affected. The first four trumpets will cause a partial ecological collapse on earth. Many people and animals will die as a result of it:
From this Scripture it is obvious that large parts of the ocean as well as fresh water resources, trees, grass, and living creatures will be stricken with disastrous results. The light of the sun, moon and stars will be partially obliterated. The great hail and fire, as well as the object like a burning mountain that falls into the sea, may be flaming meteors, meteorites or asteroids that partially burn out in the earth’s atmosphere. Some of these disasters may also be man-made, e.g. nuclear missiles launched in war that go out of control and fall into the sea or on land where they will cause great catastrophes. Apart from the high intensity shock waves that will level buildings within a radius of several kilometres, big fires will also be ignited. Explosions in the sea will cause enormous tidal waves that will flood islands and low-lying coastal areas. Thousands of ships will sink and many marine animals die.
Apart from the judgements of God that will be poured out over the earth, mankind is also contributing towards a global ecological collapse. There are various indications that major natural disasters are looming. According to scientists there is a steady rise in temperature that will significantly change the climate of the earth. This can be attributed to the immense quantity of carbon dioxide gas and other pollutants released randomly into the atmosphere. Irreparable damage has already been caused to the ozone layer around the earth, and large holes have appeared in it. This protective layer is intended to be a shield against ultra-violet rays. The damage caused to it by dangerous gases constitutes a tremendous threat to all living creatures on earth. The risk of skin cancer is greatly increased.
The increase in pollution continues unabatedly. Many emissions from factories produce acid rain, and the result has been the destruction of plantations and natural forests in many parts of the world. In addition mankind has for years been destroying vast areas of rain forest, which seriously damages the ecology of the planet. Add to this grim picture the depletion of natural resources and the serious pollution caused to rivers, lakes and the oceans by waste from factories, the spilling of crude oil, and the uncontrolled dumping of poisonous and radioactive waste.
Climatic changes also lead to a noticeable polarisation in weather conditions, as is evident from the increasing droughts, floods, violent hurricanes and unusually high and low temperatures. On the one hand, millions of people are threatened by steadily expanding deserts, while on the other, parts of the world are subject to an extraordinarily high rainfall, floods and typhoons. These extreme conditions have an adverse effect upon crops and can totally destroy them. To the rapidly increasing world population, large-scale famine and starvation are looming.
This planet will become a less and less habitable place because of the devastation caused to the earth and its natural resources by reckless and irresponsible people, big business, governments, etc., as well as by the destruction that will follow when the powers of heaven are shaken in consequence of the unleashing of God’s judgements upon the wicked. God had instructed mankind to subdue the world and have dominion over it. (Gen. 1:28) That places a big responsibility on mankind since they must control the powers and conserve the processes of nature and protect it against over-exploitation and annihilation. However, because of mankind’s wickedness, greed and folly which is destroying their own environment, God is allowing them to increasingly endanger their chances of physical survival.
The judgements of the great tribulation will not only affect the physical creation, and thereby indirectly also human beings. Many of them will be directly aimed at the people dwelling on the earth as they are, through their sinfulness and rebellion against God, responsible for these calamities. In the wars and other disasters that strike the wicked, demons always play a significant part. They go out from the devil, the Antichrist and the false prophet, and will provoke people to violence.
The fifth and sixth trumpets announce tremendous disasters coming upon humanity – the one, painful torture from poisonous stings and the other one, widespread deaths caused by a big military invasion from the East. In Revelation 9:1-11 mysterious insects are described that resemble hairy grasshoppers with tails like scorpions, faces like humans, long hair like women, teeth like lion’s teeth and something like crowns on their heads. They will ascend from the bottomless pit, from which smoke like that of a great furnace will arise and darken the sun and the air. These insects will torment people for five months by stinging them with their tails. The pain will be so severe that people will seek death but not find it. There are those who think that these strange animals are demons that will afflict people. Their origin from the bottomless pit clearly suggests such a possibility.
Revelation 9:13-19 and 16:12 give a description of how the kings of the East – that is China and its allies – will mobilise their forces for the wars of the great tribulation. An army of 200 million Asians will cross the Euphrates River into the Middle East and the Western world, and become responsible for a great slaughter. They will kill one third of the world's population, i.e. those who survived the previous calamities and judgements:
The Euphrates River is the divide between East and West. One of the great end-time enemies of Israel and the Free World comes from beyond the Euphrates and will be joined by other eastern countries. Four angels are bound here until the year, the month, and the day when they will be released to kill a third of mankind by making use of this vicious enemy with their enormous army from the East. These four angels are demons because good angels are never bound. They will have 200 million soldiers at their disposal.
The strange description of cavalry horses with fire and smoke emanating from their mouths is not intentional symbolic language, but due to the fact that John, with his vocabulary of the first century, did not have the terminology to describe modern armament and warfare. Possibly he saw modern tanks, and this was the only way in which he could describe them. There are various indications in Revelation that nuclear weapons will be used in the wars of the great tribulation.
Scientists have calculated that if a world war should break out in which nuclear weapons are used, it could result in the immediate death of about one billion people. Another billion will be doomed to a slow death. Heat waves will spread over the earth and set flammable material alight. The ignition of stored poisonous gases will fill the atmosphere with deadly carbon monoxide and cyanide gas.
The aftermath of a nuclear war would be equally ghastly. After the initial heat waves, the surface of the earth would cool down dramatically. Temperatures would fall by as much as 55 degrees, and cover the earth under a blanket of ice and snow. This is described as a nuclear winter. It would destroy all vegetation, while water reservoirs would be frozen and polluted with radioactive dust. The Northern Hemisphere would be covered with smoke, as most of the explosions would occur there. The sun would be darkened for about a month. Dense clouds would drift to the Southern Hemisphere, causing the whole earth to experience twilight for about a year. During this time the sun would become black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon like blood (Rev. 6:12).
It is obvious that the pollution caused by nuclear warfare and the firing of chemical and biological warheads will cause unheard of diseases, poisoning and radiation injuries. In the case of a nuclear war, people who have been exposed to an intensive pulse of neutron rays will die immediately. As the energy of the rays diminish, they can still remain a source of serious consequences for millions of people. The extent of the damage will depend upon the intensity of the radiation and the population density of the area. These rays can change a person's cell structure and cause various kinds of cancer. It may vary from skin cancer to malicious tumours in the intestines. If the neutron radiation contains a high energy potential, it can cause disruptions deep into the body tissue. It can also damage the female reproductive system leading to genetic abnormalities, the malformation of children born, stillbirths and sterility.
The effect on the ecosystem would be disastrous as natural resources such as water, air, soil and plants would be radioactive after nuclear explosions. Plants that grow in radioactive soil absorb this contamination, and animals, including farm animals that feed on it become irradiated. Consequently, their milk, eggs and meat are not fit for human consumption. Even rainwater from clouds that are exposed to radiation becomes radioactive. Besides this, there are various other after-effects of such explosions. Atomic clouds will be driven by the winds and cause radioactive dust to settle over large areas outside the war zone where sickness, misery and death will result among man and beast.
The animal kingdom is just as vulnerable to this invisible, insidious damage as humans. Maritime animals will also suffer because of the shock waves and irradiation. Should there be nuclear explosions in the sea, as implied by Revelation 8:8, it will prove destructive for marine life, while huge tidal waves and storms will cause many ships to sink. Revelation 16:3-4 refers to a situation where marine life will become extinct and all fresh water sources will be polluted and rendered unfit for consumption. The effect of this disaster on human life and health is inestimable.
Mankind has acquired the technology to cause a multitude of illnesses and plagues. Various Arab nations are in the process of supplementing their chemical weaponry with bacteriological weapons. They have the means of spreading bacteria over the armies and cities of their enemies, and to cause dysentery (inflammation of the intestines), diarrhoea, anthrax (splenic fever) and abdominal typhus (enteric fever). A biological installation is more compact and less sophisticated than one required for the manufacture of chemical weapons. Several Third World countries are showing an interest in germ warfare.
An end-time disease that is threatening people in virtually all the countries of the world is AIDS (Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome). It is mainly contracted through sexual contact, although drug users often infect themselves by using contaminated needles. Many children inherit this disease from infected parents. This virus destroys the body’s immunity to diseases. Death results mostly from secondary causes such as TB, pneumonia, skin cancer, diarrhoea or any other disease. A person can carry this virus for several years and be HIV-positive before it starts to get active and develop into full-blown Aids. During this period, however, the individual distributes the virus through body fluids (mainly during sexual intercourse) without showing any of the symptoms related to it.
Statistics on the extent of this disease are very incomplete and unreliable. The number of Aids cases may be determined to a certain degree, but not the number of HIV positive cases. Contamination is spreading rapidly in sexually permissive and drug addicted communities who also have much contact with foreigners. This disease has already taken on disaster proportions in some parts of the world, particularly in Africa, and threatens to do so shortly in many other parts also. The immorality of the end-time is an ideal breeding-ground for Aids.
The Lord warns against adultery, prostitution and homosexualism. This may be the reason why no remedy has as yet been found for Aids, despite intensive research by the best medical scientists in the world. Medicines that suppress these viruses, as well as the accompanying treatment, are far too expensive for most of the victims. The Word of God directs the following warning to those who persist in these and other sins:
Adultery, sexual immorality and homosexuality all feature in this list. Remember the fate of Sodom, from which the word sodomy is derived, where homosexuality was the order of the day. The Bible condemns these sinful practices and also mentions the retribution that the transgressors will suffer in their bodies:
During the end-time there will again, as in the days of Noah and Lot, be a perverse and immoral generation of people who will abandon their bodies to vile lusts and unnatural practices, be numbered by the Antichrist and even sell their souls to the devil for financial gain. Despite this depraved state into which they have degenerated, and the perils and sufferings of the judgements falling upon them, they will remain impenitent. The wicked in the great tribulation will harden themselves time and again, and refuse to repent in spite of the plagues sent by God. The hideous sores that will appear on their bodies, the excruciating heat, the famine and all the natural disasters, will cause them to blaspheme even more. They "...blasphemed the name of God, which had power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory" (Rev. 16:9 KJV).
In Revelation 9, a grim account is given of a situation in which the survivors of the terrible disasters, surrounded by starving people and decaying corpses, continue with their Satanism, immorality and other evils, with no intention of changing their ways:
The four big sins of the tribulation period are:
1. Violent crimes: revolution, terrorism, armed robbery, hostage taking, assault, rape, murder, torture, intimidation and cruelty to people and animals.
2. Occultism: magic, witchcraft, Eastern mysticism, transcendental meditation, yoga, spiritualism, idolatry, and Satanism.
3. Sexual licentiousness: sexual harassment, unmarried co-habitation, extra-marital relations, uncontrolled lust, prostitution, adultery, pornography, homosexualism, lesbianism and the sexual abuse of children.
4. Economic misdeeds: covetousness, gambling, theft, corruption, excessive profiteering, bribery, extortion, fraud and misappropriation.
A person who has publicly made his choice for Satan and his works, is so blinded and perverted that his senses will only respond to lies. He will perpetually reject the truth, while being unaware of the mad race he is pursuing on the road to perdition.
Between the sixth and seventh trumpets there is a short pause. Revelation 10 refers to the seven thunders that uttered their voices, but John was not allowed to write down their message. After this, an angel stood on the sea and on the land and swore that there would be delay no longer. He had a little book open in his hand and John was commanded to eat the book and to prophesy about many peoples, nations, tongues and kings. In his mouth the little book was sweet as honey but it caused bitterness in his stomach.
This is often the experience of the prophets of God. His message is sweet in their mouths as they proclaim it, but it has bitter consequences as people reject the message and persecute or even kill the prophets. But that should not deter a prophet from loudly and clearly proclaiming the judgements of God upon a sinful generation. To Ezekiel, the Lord said:
When the seventh trumpet sounds, the most awesome judgements upon the earth of all time will be announced. Under demonic deception and enticement the kings of the earth will march with their armies to Armageddon where they will be destroyed by the Lord in the valley of decision. As never before, the powers of heaven will be shaken, then the Son of Man will come in a cloud with great power and glory (Mt. 24:30). He will judge His enemies, crush the kingdom of the Antichrist, rescue His nation Israel and take the kingdom of the world on His shoulders as King of kings:
The judgements that will be poured out hereafter will devastate the world and its natural resources, rendering it virtually uninhabitable. Humanity will be on the brink of extinction, and perhaps only then realise the truth of what Jesus almost 2000 years ago foretold about this time: