Environmental Disasters

Revelation 8

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
January 2023

Today, we are going to talk about the environment.  Revelation 8 is all about that topic.  There is a lot of talk today about the environment.

We hear it from the media.  We hear it from politicians.  There is a lot of talk today about carbon footprints and climate change.  There is a lot of talk in the media about evil fossil fuels, like coal.

We don’t want to talk about science today, but we do want to look at the environment from a biblical perspective.  Not everything that you hear today from politicians is biblical.

The Bible teaches that God created the world.  For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them (Exodus 20:11 NIV).

The world belongs to Him.  The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Psalm 24:1 NIV).  Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10 NIV).

The Bible teaches God created the world, it belongs to Him and He has put people in charge to take care of it.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28 NIV)

We want to take care of it but there is a modern movement today that goes well beyond a natural concern for the environment.  What is the difference between a legitimate concern for the environment and the modern political movement?

Three Problems with Radical Environmentalism

1) Idolatry

Radical environmentalists worship the earth.  They worship nature.  They worship an earth goddess.  We still speak of Mother Earth today. Their motto is “earth first,” not “God first” but “earth first.”

Environmentalist Al Gore likes the Hindu motto, “The Earth is our Mother and we are her children.”  He quotes it approvingly in his book, The Earth in the Balance.[1]

This type of environmentalism is not just an ideology. It is a religion. It is the green religion. It is a mixture of climate change, religion and environmentalism.

2) Deception

Radical environmentalists teach that man-made climate change is the greatest threat to humanity’s future.  It’s not.  They teach that we only have a few more years to live before the human race faces mass extinction.

AOC said, “the world is going to end in twelve years if we don’t address climate change.”[2] That was in 2019.  That means we only have eight years left to go.  Whenever fools predict when the world will end, they are always wrong.  This is true every time, without exception.

3) Misplaced Priorities

Radical environmentalists want to save the dodo birds, and the spotted owl, but do not care at all about saving the unborn.  In their religion, recycling your trash is very important.

Personal morality is not as important.  Sexual ethics is not important.  How you live your life does not matter.  What is important is how you treat the earth.

Environmentalists are not concerned about any of the warnings in the Book of Revelation about the end of the world.  They are not concerned about dying and going to Hell.

They are not concerned about being cast into the Lake of Fire, but they are concerned about what is going to happen to planet earth.  In fact, one out of five children in Britain suffer nightmares about climate change.[3]

The truth is that we should be far more concerned with what God is going to do to the planet than what man can do to it.

What God is going to do is going to be infinitely worse than anything man will do. The Bible teaches that one day God is going to DESTROY the earth.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (II Peter 3:10 NKJV)

In Revelation 8, He is going to bring four terrible judgments on planet earth. God will not just people but the planet itself.  The physical universe will be judged.  Why?

The earth has been cursed because of man’s sin.  The whole planet was affected by man’s sin in the garden.  In Revelation 8, we are studying the future Tribulation Period.  Revelation 7 mentions “the Great Tribulation.”

Major environmental disasters are coming in the Tribulation Period, but they will not be caused by man.  God is going to bring them.  In Revelation 8, we see four environmental catastrophes coming to planet earth in the future.

One disaster will be on the land.  One disaster will be on the sea.  One disaster will be in the rivers and one disaster will be in the sky or outer space.  These are four natural disasters and God is going to do them.

We see good news for believers in this chapter and bad news for unbelievers. Unbelievers are going to face four natural disasters in the Tribulation and at the end of the chapter, we find that it is only going to get worse.  You think it is bad now.  You have not seen anything yet.  There are three woes yet to come.

As 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!” (Revelation 8:13 NIV)

The good news for believers is that they don’t have to worry about these judgments.  They will be protected from them.  They will be sealed.  In fact, they are sealed before these judgments can even fall.

Silence in Heaven

There is a big mystery as this chapter opens.  Jesus opens each seal one by one and, as he does, bad things happen on earth.  In fact, they get worse and worse.  Seal number six is the worst one.  It is so bad that people want to kill themselves.

When the seventh seal is opened, you expect something really bad to happen.  When it is opened, nothing happens.

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Revelation 8:1 NIV).  Not only did nothing happen but there was complete silence.  That would not be such a big deal, except heaven is a loud place.

And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a LOUD VOICE, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2 NIV)

In a LOUD VOICE they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12 NIV)

Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a LOUD VOICE to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea (Revelation 7:2 NIV)

And they cried out in a LOUD VOICE: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:10 NIV)

Heaven is a place of sound.  It is a place of activity.  Many think that heaven is a quiet, serene place.  It is not.  It is loud.  The twenty-four elders were loud.  The angels were loud.  The martyrs in heaven were loud.  The saints are loud.  Everyone’s loud.

Jesus opens the seventh seal, there is complete silence in heaven.  You can hear a pin drop. No words were spoken. It is not quiet for long.  Soon, this silence will be followed by some loud sounds.  Nature is loud.  John will hear “peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:5 NIV).

Seven Archangels

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them (Revelation 8:2 NIV).  Who are these angels?  It sounds like a special group (THE seven angels who stand before God).  It has the article.  I am going to mention something that you will never hear in most churches.

Ancient Jews believed in the notion of belief in seven archangels.  We see it in Jewish apocalyptic writings before the time of Christ.  I Enoch gives the names of these seven angels – Uriel, Raguel, Remiel, Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, Saraqael (I Enoch 20:1-8).  All Archangels have “God” on their name.  They all end with the suffix el (“God”) in Hebrew.

In the Roman Catholic Apocrypha, Raphael is called on these angels.  Tobit 12:15 says, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ever ready to enter the presence of the glory of the Lord.”

The idea of seven archangels is in both Jewish and Christian tradition.  We don’t know if it is true.  Michael is the only one in the Bible who is specifically called an archangel (Jude 9) but Daniel 10:13 says that Michael is only “one of the chief princes” (implying that there are others).  The NLT reads, “Michael, one of the archangels”.

These seven special angels are loud.  They were given trumpets and they blow them.  These were musical angels.  Angels can not only sing; they can play musical instruments.  Why trumpets?  Why don’t they pay the violin?   In Scripture trumpets are associated with warfare and judgment.

The animals on earth are also loud.  John hears an eagle saying in a loud voice, “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth” (Revelation 8:13).  This was probably an angel in the form of a bird.  It is a talking eagle, a talking animal.

Why the silence?  By the time you get to the seventh seal, we are near the end of the Tribulation. After the seventh seal is over, it is the end.  The coming of Christ is imminent.  The trumpets and bowl judgments do not follow the seventh seal.  They are part of the seventh seal.

These judgments bring us to the end.  Heaven stands in suspense as we come to the end of these dreadful judgments.  They get progressively worse in intensity, but they get shorter in duration.

I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over A FOURTH of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. (Revelation 6:8 NIV)

The 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, A THIRD of the living creatures in the sea died, and A THIRD of the ships were destroyed. (Revelation 8:8 NIV)

The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and EVERY living thing in the sea died. (Revelation 16:3 NIV)

The devastation goes from one fourth (seals) to one third (trumpets) to everything (bowls).  The judgments get progressively worse, but they also get shorter.  The seals last for years.  The trumpet judgments last for months (Revelation 9:5).  The bowl judgments may only last for weeks.

Literal Plagues

Many believe that the book of Revelation has already been fulfilled. They are called Preterists.  This chapter is a big problem for preterists.  This chapter has not already been fulfilled.

A third of the earth has not been burned up.  That would be like seventeen states burned up.  A third of the trees have not been burned up.  A third of the sea was never turned into blood. A third of the living creatures in the sea have not died.  A third of ships have not been destroyed.  When just one sinks, it makes the evening news.

How do they deal with it?  They spiritualize it.  They make it an allegory.  They come up with some ridiculous interpretations. When it says a third of the grass is burned up, grass must mean people, because of what Isaiah says.

All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. (Isaiah 40:6-7 NIV)

A great star falls from the sky called wormwood and poisons the waters.  Satan in the Bible is called a fallen star (Luke 10:18), so this must be Satan positing society and culture.

The Sun, moon and stars refer to ruling authorities.  The pastors were called stars earlier in the book (Revelation 1:20).  A falling star means political leaders losing their power.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the word “earth” refers to Christendom, which makes up one-third of the population of the earth and the trees to the pastors of those churches.[4]

They are right that statistically, Christianity right now makes up 31% of the earth’s population.[5]  It is a third of mankind.  Are they right?  No.

That is spiritualizing the Bible.  When is it right to take something literally in Scripture and when is it right to take something figurately.  One of the rules of interpreting the Bible is, “If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense.”

There is NO evidence in the text that any of these plagues are spiritual.  In fact, this chapter is very similar to what we see in the Book of Exodus.

God sent Ten Plagues on the land of Egypt in the Book of Exodus, and they were literal plagues that fell on the Egyptians.  They weren’t symbolic.  The plagues in Revelation 8 look exactly like the plagues in the Book of Exodus.

History is going to repeat itself. The Plagues of Egypt are going to come back.  Some of these will be repeated in the Tribulation Period.  The Ten Plagues in Exodus were historical.  The plagues in Revelation are prophetic.  Not only will these plagues be repeated; they will be worse.  There was a plague of fire and hail in Exodus.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on people and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” 23 When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt; 24 hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both people and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. (Exodus 9:22-25).

What was the First Trumpet Judgment?  It was hail and fire mixed with blood (Revelation 8:7 NIV)

There was a plague of blood in Egypt.  The Nile River turned into blood.

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.”

20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. (Exodus 7:19-21 NIV)

What will in the Second Trumpet Judgment?  A river will not turn into blood; the sea will.  A burning mountain will fly through the air and fall into the sea and a third of the waters will became blood.

The Third Trumpet Judgment results in contaminated drinking water as well.  Not just one river but a third of all of the rivers became undrinkable.  There are 250,000 rivers in the US.  That would mean that would affect 83,000 rivers.

There was a plague of Egypt that affected drinking water.  We are told that “the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water” (Exodus 7:21 NIV).

There was an OT plague of darkness in the Book of Exodus.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived. (Exodus 10:21-23 NIV).

In the Fourth Trumpet, there is also a plague of darkness.  This will not be a plague of total darkness in the Tribulation Period but will limit the amount of light that is available.  It will last more than three days and will affect more than Egypt.

The 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 NIV)

We do not know how this will work.  We don’t know how God will do it.  Will God speed up the rotation of the earth, so we have sixteen-hour days, instead of twenty-four-hour days?  Somehow a third of the day will be without light.  Jesus predicted signs in the heavens before He returns.

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. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26 NIV)

What does Revelation 8 have to do with us?  According to the theology of many people, we will not be here.  We will all be raptured.  If we are here, we will be protected from the Tribulation plagues.  We will be sealed with the seal of the living God.  How is this chapter relevant?

Prayers in Heaven

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then 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 lightning and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:3-5 NIV)

There is a huge application for us today from Revelation 8 that I want to share with you.  This chapter is all about prayer.  God wants us to pray.  He compares it to incense (Revelation 5:8; 8:4).

We need to pray and not stop praying.  Don’t stop praying.  “Don’t stop praying for your lost friend, or for your own family, or for that need that you’re living with.”[6]  In Luke 18, Jesus told some parables about why we should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1).

When I was on vacation, I always find my way into some thrift stores and always gravitate to the used book section.  I have a weakness for books.  I glanced at a book with a strange title. The title was 101 Reasons Why You Should Never Pray.  At first, I passed over it.  That is not a book I want to have anything to do with.

Then, curiosity got to me.  I figured it would be good to see what atheists are saying so you know how to answer them, so I finally picked it up, opened it and found all of the pages blank.  In this chapter, we see three reasons why all of us need to pray every day.

Three Reasons to Pray

1) God hears prayer

God hears every prayer you utter.  That is what we see in this chapter. They ascend to Heaven.  He hears them.  Sometimes we think that God never hears our prayers.  We are wasting our time.  They never get past the ceiling.

In this chapter, we see that the prayers of the saints make it all the way to heaven.  They go further than any rocket sent into our space by NASA.  They go further than Apollo 11 which went to the moon.  Our prayers reach heaven.

God hears our prayers, and He does not forget them.  That is interesting to think about.  God remembers every prayer you ever made to Him.  The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29 NIV).

How do we know from Revelation that God hears our prayers?  Prayers of the saints are mentioned in two verses in this chapter (Revelation 8:3, 4).  In fact, we were told earlier that they are located in bowls.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. (Revelation 5:8 NIV)

There is a bowl of incense in heaven and the bowl represents the prayers of the all of the saints.  They are not just in bowls.  They are in golden bowls.

Later in Revelation, we are going to see bowl that contain God’s wrath that are poured out in the earth.  Here, we see, bowls containing the prayers of God’s people and they are in heaven.

2) God answers prayer

In Revelation 8, we see two things: prayer in heaven and judgment on earth.  In fact, the judgment was in response to the prayers of the saints.  They prayed in Revelation 6.

What did the saints pray for in Revelation 6?  They prayed for God to judge their persecutors.  People on earth are murdering believers.  They are executing the saints.  God allowed it but in Revelation 8 their prayers were answered, and judgment falls on the wicked.

God’s judgments in this chapter are an answer to prayer.  They are a DIRECT RESULT of the prayers of the saints.  They are a result of the praying martyrs.

Judgment doesn’t come to earth until the prayers of the saints go up to God. Revelation 8 “may be the most dramatic picture of answered prayer in the Bible.”[7]

3) Prayer is powerful

The prayers of the saints produced the opening of the seventh seal which produced the blowing the trumpets, which led to certain things happening on earth. There is power in prayer. Our prayers are powerful.

They can cause you to live longer.  Hezekiah found that out.  He was given a death sentence, not by a doctor but by a prophet but he prayed and God let him live longer.

They can get you out of prison.  Peter was in prison and was let out supernaturally by an angel because the church prayed for him.

Prayer can heal the sick.  In James, we are told that the prayer of faith will heal the sick.  James 5:15 says, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up (NIV).

Prayer will get you a spouse.  Isaac got a spouse because the servant who went out looking for one for him prayed that God would give him success (Genesis 24:12-14) and the Bible says that before he finished praying Rebekah walked up to the well to get water.

Jesus taught that prayer moves mountains (Mark 11:22-24).  That is not just difficult; it is impossible.

Prayer can change the weather.  Elijah prayed and changed the weather.  James said that he was a man just like us (James 5:17).  Prayer can stop the movement of the sun and the moon.  Joshua leaned that (Joshua 10:12).

Prayer can shake the earth.   Peter and John prayed in Acts and after they prayed “the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31 NIV).

[1] Al Gore, The Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit (Houghton Mifflin, 1992), 261

[2] https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/426353-ocasio-cortez-the-world-will-end-in-12-years-if-we-dont-address/

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/climate-change-children/one-in-five-uk-children-report-nightmares-about-climate-change-idUSL1N2AV1FF

[4] https://www.jw.org/en/library/books/Revelation-Its-Grand-Climax-At-Hand/Jehovahs-Plagues-on-Christendom/

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religious_populations#Notes

[6] The Swindoll Study Bible NLT. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition.

[7] Morgan, Robert J., The 50 Final Events in World History (Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition), p. 59.


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