The first trumpet blast unleashed forces that impacted agriculture. Its plague was patterned on the seventh plague of Egypt – Revelation 8:7.
Fire from the “golden altar” has been “cast onto the earth” in response to the “prayers of the saints.” This was followed by “claps of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake,” which concluded the “seven seals” and signaled the start of the “seven trumpets.” Thus, the seven angels are now poised to blow their trumpets.
The first four trumpets employ imagery from two events in the history of Israel – The “ten plagues” of Egypt, and Jeremiah’s judicial pronouncement against Babylon. The trumpet “plagues” are modeled on the first, seventh, and ninth Egyptian plagues. Revelation combines features from three of the original ten plagues and distributes them over the first four trumpets.
The cause of the original plagues was Pharaoh’s refusal to let Israel leave Egypt and the resultant “hardening” of his heart. Likewise, the “plagues” of the first six trumpets only serve to harden the hearts of the “inhabitants of the earth” – (Revelation 9:20 – “And the rest of mankind, who were not killed with these plagues, repented not of the works of their hands”).
The imagery from Exodus provides a picture of the new people of God marching from “Egypt” to the new Promised Land, the city of “New Jerusalem.” Just as “plagues” preceded the release of Israel from Egypt, so “plagues” prepare for the release of the “saints” from the oppressions of end-time Babylon.
There are literary parallels between the first four trumpets and the first four “bowls of wrath” in chapter 16. The plagues unleashed by the first trumpet were “cast upon the earth,” the “great mountain” of the second was “cast into the sea,” the “great star” of the third blast fell upon the “rivers and fountains of water,” and the fourth trumpet blast darkened a third of the sun, moon, and stars.
Likewise, the first “bowl of wrath” was poured “onto the earth” where it afflicted men with “grievous sores.” The second was poured “into the sea” and caused the death of “every living thing” in it. The third was poured “onto the rivers and fountains of water.” And the fourth “bowl of wrath” was poured “onto the sun,” causing men to be “scorched.”
The number “three” dominates the first four trumpets. Each “plague” damaged a third of three things: the first harmed a third of the earth, trees, and grass; the second, a third of the sea, sea creatures, and ships; and the third, a third of the rivers and “springs of waters.” Finally, the fourth “plague” darkened a third of the sun, moon, and stars.
- (Revelation 8:7) – “And the first sounded, and there came to be hail and fire mingled with blood, and it was cast onto the earth, and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green herbage was burned up.”
The first trumpet blast impacts things but does not kill men. Its effects echo those of the angel who “cast” (ballō) “fire onto the earth” (eis tén gén) after the prayers of the saints had ascended from the altar. Now, “fire” is mixed with “blood” and “cast”(ballō) onto the earth (eis tén gén) in response to the “prayers of the saints.” And the first trumpet is patterned after the seventh plague of Egypt:
- (Exodus 9:24-26) – “So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous… And the hail smote every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field throughout the land of Egypt… Only in the land of Goshen where Israel was no hail fell.”
The “third” of the earth and trees were “consumed.” The Greek verb means to “consume, burn up completely,” and the same word is applied to the destruction of end-time “Babylon” in chapter 17.
The verbal link to Babylon’s downfall is deliberate. The process that begins with the first trumpet will culminate in the annihilation of end-time “Babylon” – (Revelation 17:16 – “She will be consumed by fire”).
Not coincidentally, the first feature of the “plague” is “hail.” The “seven seals” closed with the angel “casting fire onto the earth,” which was followed by “claps of thunder, voices, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” Likewise, the seven trumpets will conclude “flashes of lightning, voices, claps of thunder, an earthquake, and great hail.” Thus, the occurrence of “hail” at the start and conclusion of the sevenfold series of “seven trumpets” brackets the entire section.
“Hail” is also a verbal link to the seventh “bowl of wrath” that overthrew end-time Babylon. When the final bowl was emptied, a great voice declared, “It is finished”; that is, the “seven last plagues” that completed the “wrath of God.” This was followed by “flashes of lightning, voices, claps of thunder, and a great earthquake,” signaling the conclusion of the “seven bowls of wrath.” Consequently, the “great city,” end-time Babylon, received the full wrath of God, “every island fled, and the mountains were not found,” and “great hail” fell upon the inhabitants of the city – (Revelation 15:1, 16:17-21).
The areas affected by the first trumpet were connected to the food supply, especially agriculture. The plagues of the first four trumpet blasts target the economic system of the “inhabitants of the earth,” the key weapon used against the “seven churches of Asia.”
The order of the first four trumpets is literary, not chronological. Like the first four seal openings, the trumpet “plagues” represent concurrent processes or realities. Also, the imagery from the Egyptian plagues sets the stage for the later identification of end-time Babylon as “the great city, spiritually called Egypt” – (Revelation 11:8).