The Third Trumpet

THIRD TRUMPETThe 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 – the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. (Revelation 8:10-11)

Blazing Star – Though many have attempted to interpret the third trumpet’s “great star” symbolically, it may be best to consider it
as a large meteor or similar object falling to earth from the heavens and turning the water so bitter and tainted that people who drank it died.(1) It is possible that whatever this object falling from the sky is, that it becomes molten as it passes into the earth’s atmosphere and begins to disintegrate, perhaps falling into the various bodies of water. If this judgment is a divinely directed judgment, one should be careful in limiting it to the known laws of physics and thermodynamics.(2)

Some who do interpret Revelation symbolically interpret the star fallen from heaven as a chief minister or some future false teacher falling from his high place in the Church.(3) Others variously view the star as apostasy or heresy.(4)

Impact on Fresh Water and People – The National Geographic Society lists about 100 principal rivers in the world, ranging in length from the Amazon (4,000 miles long) to the Rio de la Plata (150 miles long). The U.S. Geological Survey reports thirty large rivers in the United States, beginning with Mississippi (3,710 miles long). According to the text in Revelation, 1/3rd of these rivers will become so bitterly polluted that drinking their water could produce death.(5) If the people who drink from these waters are in danger of dying, what must happen to the fish and other creatures that live in the waters? And what would happen to the vegetation near the rivers? There is no direct parallel here to any of the plagues of Egypt. However, after the Exodus, Israel encountered bitter waters at Marah (which means bitter) and Moses had to purify the water supply (Exodus 15:23–27). But no supernatural purification will be available during the Tribulation.(6) Jeremiah prophesied that one day Israel would have to drink the bitter waters (Jeremiah 9:14–15). It seems that this bitterness will continue until the establishment of the millennial kingdom, for in Ezekiel 47:6–9, it is prophesied that the healing waters will overcome the bitter effects of the Tribulation judgments.(7)

Wormwood is a leafy plant which causes water to become extremely bitter when it is added to it (Proverbs 5:3–4). Though wormwood is not poisonous, it can be combined with other elements that are (see Deuteronomy 29:18, where poisonous and bitter fruit is gall and wormwood). The waters are called wormwood because the object from the sky made them bitter.(8) The word translated wormwood gives us our English word absinthe, which is a popular liqueur in some countries of the world. The word means undrinkable.(9)

For those taking a non-literal view, the term wormwood is used metaphorically in the Old Testament of the idolatry of Israel (Deuteronomy 29:18); of calamity and sorrow (Jeremiah 9:15; 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, 19); and, of false judgment (Amos 5:7).(10)

Up Next – The Fourth Trumpet.


  1.  Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 952). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 593). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 572). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  4. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  5. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 593). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  6. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 593–594). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  7. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 820). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  8. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 8:11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  9. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 593). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  10. Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 506). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.References


Author: thebrewisamusing

I was raised in a Christian family and my earliest childhood memories include regular Sunday school and Church attendance as a family. I was taught that our Judeo-Christian values were not just a part of our Sunday routine they should be part of our character and influence all aspects of our lives. I was also taught that as important as these values were they could not save us. We must also be “born again” by accepting Christ.

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