In my previous posts, I commented on how I believe that John saw God’s judgments at various moments in time and that the move from the seal judgments to the trumpet judgments to the bowl judgments reveal an escalation in severity. First, you can see that right in the text of Revelation itself. In the fourth seal judgment, Death and Hades have authority to inflict their pain upon a quarter of the earth. In the trumpet judgments, as we’ll see, a third of the earth is affected. Finally, by the time of the bowl judgments, the whole earth is involved.
However, secondly, the pattern for the judgments in Revelation was laid out in Leviticus, including the escalation we see. In Leviticus 26:14-33, we find the pattern of being judged sevenfold for our sins. God outlines four sets of sevenfold judgments. In Revelation, John sees four sets of seven judgments, although with one set, the seven thunders, he was told not to write them down. Perhaps that relates to Matthew 24:22:
And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
Is eliminating the seven thunder judgments God’s way of cutting these days short?
But I digress. Back to Leviticus. Note the following in the passages from verses 14-33:
18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins,
21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins.
23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins
27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.
Did you catch it? The escalation? If you don’t listen, I will strike you again. If you still don’t listen, I will continue to strike you. Then God says He’ll walk contrary to you and Himself strike you. Then He walks contrary to you in fury.
In a way, isn’t this what we’re seeing in the judgments of Revelation? True, all of the judgments in Revelation come from God Himself, but the idea of escalation is there.
We find another example of intensification here. In Rev 8:5 we read of an angel throwing a censor filled with the prayers of the saints to earth. It produces peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. In Rev 11:19, we see the temple of God in heaven opened to reveal the ark of the covenant. At that time, we see the same things, plus heavy hail. Then, in Rev 16:18, we again read of the thunder, lightning, and rumblings, but this time the earthquake is so severe it causes the “great city” to split into three parts and the cities of the nations to fall.
With the breaking of the seventh seal, we read that there is silence in heaven for half an hour. I’ve heard that this jokingly means there are no women in heaven, but I’m more convinced it’s the lawyers who get left out. Most scholars believe the silence is in response to all of heaven being awed by what they now see. The seven angels who stand before God are given trumpets, and the first one blows his horn.
The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. [Rev 8:7 ESV]
As noted above, we now see that a third of the earth is involved.
Is this simply symbolic? Every day we read of wildfires somewhere across the globe—the isle of Rhodes, Maui, and Canada to name a few recent fires in the news. A current (Aug 2023) wildfire in northwestern Greece is the largest in the EU since the union started keeping records in 2000. Australia is once again gearing up for wildfire season as winter ends there. If we look at graphs like the following, it’s easy to think that wildfires are increasing:
However, the reality is that the number and severity of global wildfires waxes and wanes. You can see that in the above graph as well by looking at the years on the right side. They don’t show any steady increase by year. The U.S. data, as well as global data, is much the same in its ups and downs.
If you’re looking for data that shows a quarter or a third of the earth’s forests burning at any one given time, you won’t find it. Global data shows that we’ve lost a third of the global forests due to industrialization, population growth, and other reasons for clearing. I don’t think the forests on fire is symbolic of this type of loss. Today, there are 4 billion hectares of forested land. For those of us familiar with acres, not hectares, there are 2.47 acres to a hectare. So, that results in 9.88+ billion acres of forested land across the globe.
The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization has collected data on forests affected by fire since 2000. Currently, the publicly available data only goes through 2017 and of the 236 nations listed roughly half reported no data. Admittedly, many of those nations have little to no forestland. Yet, among those countries without data are nations such as Greece, Australia, and Germany, nations that have been in the news for their fires.
If we look at the data that is available, we won’t see any given year in which more than 566 million acres have burned. And yet, between 2000 and 2004, 25% of the world’s forests had burned. By 2006, over a third of the world’s forests had burned. As of 2017, plus data from 2018 to 2022 in the U.S. and Canada, nearly 78% of the world’s forests have burned since 2000. Could data from the non-reporting countries, plus the data from the past five years, tip the scale even closer to 100%?
How does this tie into Revelation? If you think that John is seeing a third of the forests burning all at one time in the first trumpet judgment, you won’t find such occurring in the global data. As such, you would anticipate this as some future event.
But what if he’s getting a snapshot of God’s ongoing judgment at one point in time. God’s judgments would be cumulative, so at the point where John sees that trumpet blow, the cumulative damage to earth’s trees has reached the one third point. Within this possibility, we moved past the first trumpet judgment in 2006.
What about the other trumpet judgments? We’ll move into those in the next post.