The Trumpet Judgments
In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John records terrible visions of nuclear weapons causing vast destruction at the end of the age through the generation of massive firestorms and conflagrations. In in some of the most frightening prophecies within the entire Bible, John describes the effects of horrific judgments coming upon the Earth as seven trumpets begin to sound. Each of these trumpets heralds a cataclysmic event that is seen to shake the very foundation of life on this planet. In fact, so monumental is the beginning of this period that the Bible says that there will be complete silence in Heaven before it starts (Rev. 8:1). In chapter 8 of Revelation, the seventh and final seal is opened by the Lord to set these events in motion. This is the way John describes this solemn scene:
“And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”
As John sees the angels begin to blow these trumpets in timed succession, one by one they usher in dire conditions that will mark the final three and a half years before the Return of Christ. The first three of these events is described with one major characteristic in common: widespread destruction of the Earth by fire. As we will see, one of the major effects of nuclear war is the creation of firestorms and conflagrations, which will consume the cities and works of man as well as huge portions of the world’s ecosystem.
But first, how do we know that the trumpets occur in the last half of Daniel’s 70th Week (the final seven years of this age) and not the first half? Simply because the horrible nature of what the trumpets portend can only refer to a holocaust of the most catastrophic proportions. When these events begin to occur, life as we know it will be forever changed. What John foresees in these prophecies is nothing less than the start of the Great Tribulation, a time period which Jesus predicted would be terrible beyond anything that man has ever experienced. After the first trumpets sound and the events they herald take place, this current world system and particularly the Antichrist’s kingdom will be consumed and destroyed unto the end (Dan. 7:26).
In fact, the first three trumpets all allude to the initial fireballs and thermal pulses of multiple nuclear explosions, and they appear in these prophecies to occur in close succession to one another. In verse 7 John says…
“The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mixed with blood, and they were cast upon the earth…”
In verse 8 he says,
“And the second angel sounded, and, as it were, a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea…”
And in verse 10 John says…
“…the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as though it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.”
In the language of a first-century prophet having visions of a power being unleashed that he could not fully understand, John said he saw a huge fireball, a mountain of fire, and a star blazing with fire all fall upon the earth, sea, and fresh waters in the last days. If the Lord actually allowed John to have a realistic vision of atomic bombs exploding, he could not possibly have described what he was seeing in scientific terms. Anyone who witnessed nuclear explosions for the first time without knowing what he was seeing would be at a loss for words to explain the power being released. Words like “star” or “mountain of fire” would certainly be appropriate to describe the experience.
God reveals in these trumpet judgments that the coming destruction by fire will encompass both land and water. This too is completely expected of what would happen during a World War III battle scenario, especially when we consider a nuclear exchange occurring between the major global powers. In the present strategy of nuclear warfare, military targets would be the first priority. Primary targets would include ICBM launch sites, airfields which are capable of handling the large bomber fleets, and military bases. Land targets also would include mobile launch vehicles, major command and control centers, and communication systems. However, even these initial targets would not be restricted to land or to remote battlefields. No doubt, some thermonuclear missiles would also be directed toward the opposing navies—particularly the nuclear-equipped battle ships, carriers, and submarines sailing the seas.
For instance, the U.S. Navy currently has the largest standing fleet in the world consisting of 288 ships, including 10 aircraft carriers, 72 submarines, 62 destroyers, and dozens of cruisers, frigates, and assault ships. These ships are a major threat to any opposing nation, and their nuclear capability is second to none. Fourteen of these submarines carry Trident nuclear missiles for a total of 336 warheads, each one of which can destroy targets anywhere within 4,000 nautical miles of their launch positions. Each Trident missile contains a thermonuclear MIRV payload (Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle), which has up to 14 warheads that can hit multiple independent sites using computer guidance systems upon arrival at its target destination. In addition, many of the U.S. Naval ships are capable of carrying nuclear or conventional Tomahawk cruse missiles (see: The five most-powerful navies on the planet, by Kyle Mizokami, The National Interest Magazine, June 6, 2014). It is obvious that the ships and ports of the world’s navies would be prime targets in any nuclear exchange. Therefore, just as the Book of Revelation predicts, the oceans and seas will suffer considerable thermonuclear damage during the coming World War III battles.
Additional sites for the first missiles strikes would be the major cities within the warring nations, including manufacturing facilities and the seats of government. No significant target within the Western Alliance or the nations allied with Russia would be spared as the missiles fell. The policy of Mutual Assured Destruction (appropriately called MAD) has always included military targets and cities as the most important sites for initial destruction. Correlate this to what the Bible says—that the land, ocean, and fresh waters will all feel the effects of the coming fiery holocaust. In addition, the Apostle Peter predicted that the works of man would be devoured by fire coming from the elements themselves (2 Pet. 3:10), and the Book of Revelation describes these events in stunning detail.
One of the rapid secondary effects that would occur after the initial nuclear bombs explode would be the development of firestorms and conflagrations. Each fireball and thermal pulse would spread incredible heat energy equaling tens of millions of degrees, which would radiate out from the center of each blast. In a conflagration, the prevailing winds carry the fires to anything able to burn. At the unimaginable magnitude of a vast nuclear holocaust, these walls of fire would be huge and moving fast. Within the immediate vicinity of a blast, firestorms would develop consisting of super-strong updrafts of air and fire caused by the high temperatures within the core of the thermal pulse. Winds can actually reach hurricane force as air is sucked into and up through the center of the blast. The winds created by the rising fireball and the outward moving thermal pulse would spread death by fire to hundreds of square miles surrounding every ground zero location. In addition, immense forest fires would erupt which would decimate much of the grasses, plants, crops, and forests surrounding each city or targeted area. The all-consuming fires would continue to spread out from the bombed cities and military targets with tremendous ferocity. Since no firefighting force would be available or capable of stopping such fires, they would burn until they simply ran out of fuel or natural events such as rain put them out.
Research and Development magazine in discussing the effects of nuclear war has said,
“The fires would heat surrounding air, causing it to rise. At that point, cooler air at the periphery of the burning area would rush to replace it, creating circulatory winds that, at ground level, could reach hurricane force. Air temperatures within the zone of the fire could exceed 100° C (210° F), killing everyone within a 6- to 8-mi (10- to 13 km) radius of ground zero”(Research and Development, Dec., 1985, p. 32; Author’s note: the range of heat effects would be dependent on the size of the blast).
“Shortly, fires would spring up in the debris of the cities and in every forest dry enough to burn. These fires would simply burn down the United States. When one pictures a full-scale attack on the United States, or on any other country, therefore, the picture of a single city being flattened by a single bomb—an image firmly engraved in the public imagination, probably because of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—must give way to a picture of substantial sections of the country being turned by a sort of nuclear carpet-bombing into immense infernal regions, literally tens of thousands of square miles in area, from which escape is impossible” (from: Fate of the Earth, Schell, p. 57).
Just as the visions and prophecies in the Bible do well to describe the tremendous explosive force and fireballs of nuclear warfare, so too does it accurately predict the secondary firestorms and conflagrations which will develop and destroy much of civilization and the surrounding flammable land mass. Isaiah presents several extremely graphic descriptions of that day. In Isaiah 24, the prophet talks of the Time of the End as though he was actually present witnessing the events firsthand:
“Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.”
“The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.”
“Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate; therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left”.
That last significant phrase is worth repeating: “…therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.” There is no doubt that the Bible predicts a time of such destruction that the very existence of mankind will be threatened. According to the prophet Isaiah, the fire of nuclear weapons will virtually terminate civilization as we know it.
These descriptions can’t just be the result of conventional wars, either. Even if we consider every war since World War I, a period of time that the world had seen more devastating wars than at any other period in history, all of them combined still would not match the total collapse and destruction of civilization that John and Isaiah have envisioned. Thus, a conventional conflict using non-nuclear weapons, even though it may result in tens of millions of people perishing, could never really threaten the survival of civilization or mankind in total. Only in our generation and only with the advent of nuclear weapons have we created a destructive power great enough to fulfill the Biblical predictions of the Great Tribulation.
Now some will say that these prophecies refer to supernatural fire and not to nuclear weapons, because in many of them the Lord says that He will be the one causing the destruction to occur. However, even in past judgments related to the nation of Israel, such as the scattering of the Jews from their land by the Assyrian and the Babylonian armies, the prophets warned that it would be God who would cause these things to happen if they did not repent.
During times of judgment, God will often remove his protection from a nation and allow bad things to happen as a warning. If the nation repents, then the threat will be removed, but if the nation refuses to do good, then a much greater evil may be brought forth as additional warnings or may even lead to a final judgment. Many times the Lord has used evil nations in this regard to bring judgment upon Israel by allowing these forces to threaten or even destroy their homeland.
In another example of this type of judgment upon Israel, when Jesus walked out of the Temple complex in Jerusalem during the last week of his ministry, he told the Scribes and the Pharisees that God was leaving the Holy Place desolate (Matt. 23:38) and that all the buildings would be destroyed as a judgment for rejecting the Messiah (Matt. 24:1-2). Did the Lord use supernatural force to bring down the Temple walls? No, He used the Roman army to destroy the Temple and Jerusalem almost 40 years after Jesus said those words. Similarly, at the end of this age, God will use sinful men to bring judgment and destruction upon an entire world that has rebelled against Him. The Lord will allow the missiles of nuclear destruction to rain down upon the nations and bring all the armies of the world to the Valley of Jehoshaphat for that final great day of battle and judgment.
Isaiah also tells us that the coming destruction will be the direct result of man’s evil nature, which will eventually cause the curse to devour the entire Earth. Thus, the world will fall and be destroyed by fire solely due to the wickedness of man. At the same time we know that God is directing these events and allowing them to occur at the appointed time, which He alone controls. However, it was man who made these weapons of war and will use them in the end to consume all that he has created. In our zeal for knowledge, we discovered the very power which holds the universe together, but in our wickedness we have turned that power into the most destructive force ever invented.
The prophet Joel also corroborates the Book of Revelation in how the fires of the final battles will destroy the world. Throughout Joel chapters 1 and 2 he talks in symbolic terms about the attack of a great northern army upon Israel in the last days (see Joel 2:20). His words are a perfect description of the attack of Russia through the Middle East and the aftereffects of that battle. In the symbolic nature of his prophecy, Joel likens the destruction caused by Russia’s assault to that of the decimation of a countryside by a locust swarm. Some of his words, however, indicate that what will happen will be much more destructive than a mere insect attack. This is the way Joel describes it:
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain, Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is near at hand;
“A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, like the morning spread upon the mountains; a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.
“A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame burneth; the land is like the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; yea, and nothing shall escape…”
Joel gives us a perfect description of the firestorms and conflagrations that will erupt after the initial nuclear blasts. He says a fire devours before the army and a flame burns after them. The attacking forces of the Russian Alliance as they move toward Israel at the end will use nuclear weapons to destroy the opposing armies of the Antichrist and the Western Alliance. In turn, the forces of the West will decimate Russia and many other nations with them. In the wake of these explosions, however, vast secondary fires will burn the cities and countryside to the ground. Joel also talks about extensive clouds erupting from these fires causing thick darkness and gloominess. As we saw in the section on The Mushroom Cloud, the pillars of smoke rising up in the atmosphere from the coalescing smoke and debris of exploding bombs will create a thick darkness of death that will affect vast regions of the globe. The smoke and fine particles of pulverized cities and blasted out earth combined with the additional smoke from the secondary fires will obscure the sun and transform daylight into night.
Joel is so affected by this vision that he says that there will never again be events like these in the history of the world. This is precisely the same characterization that Jesus and Daniel gave concerning the Time of the End and the Great Tribulation.
However, when it comes to graphic details of this period, the book of Revelation is the most descriptive with respect to how these secondary firestorms and conflagrations will literally burn down the cities and vegetation of the world. Although portions of these prophecies from the first three trumpets in Revelation 8 were quoted previously, some of the information that speaks about these secondary fires was left out until now. When John saw the massive fire balls cast upon the earth after the first trumpet sounded, he continued to prophesy that…
“…the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.”
This is a perfect vision of what will happen when a nuclear exchange occurs between the superpowers. The exploding bombs themselves will only be the first part of the horror. Equally significant will be the destruction from firestorms and conflagrations, which will immediately follow. John says that all grasses will be burnt to the ground and at least one third of all trees will be devoured by the flames. Not surprisingly, immense forest and grass fires are exactly what modern science has predicted will occur after a large-scale nuclear exchange.
It is amazing that the prediction concerning the destruction of one third of the plant life of the world corresponds almost exactly to the total land mass of the nations predicted to be involved in the final battles. When we consider that North America, Europe, Japan, Russia, and most of the Middle East are predicted to be the major participants in the first part of the war, just about one third of the total land mass of the earth is involved. If a nuclear exchange occurred between these countries, their territories would be the primary targets hardest hit and the most likely to suffer extensive damage by the blasts and firestorms and conflagrations.
Theodore Postal of Stanford University was quoted in Research and Development magazine as offering this description of how these fires would get started:
“So great is the amount of light and heat generated by a 1-megaton air burst that, if one were to occur at a high enough altitude over Baltimore, observers in Washington (40 mi away) might see it as a ball of fire many times brighter than the noonday sun… This intense source of heat and light is capable of setting many simultaneous fires over vast areas of surrounding terrain” (Research and Development, Dec., 1985, p. 32).
The book of Revelation gives us a vivid illustration of how the great cities of the world will burn to the ground during the wars of the end. In Rev. 18, John describes the destruction of all civilization by prophesying about the fiery collapse of a symbolic power called “Babylon, the Great”. We already know that in ancient times the city of Babylon was the seat of the first world-conquering empire according to Daniel’s visions (website reference). Due its unique position in Biblical prophecy, Babylon’s name eventually became the symbolic code for all the evil powers that would follow it. In John’s day, even the Roman Empire was called “Babylon” by Christians to equate it with these prophecies.
However, the final rise and fall of “Babylon, the Great” as Revelation predicts it will not occur until the time of the Antichrist’s final world empire. In the 17th chapter of Revelation, John sees a woman symbolizing the sum of all evil within the world system and having upon her person the name written, “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”. According to God, the wickedness of the final Empire-Beast that she represents will eventually bring upon the world the most devastating day of destruction mankind will ever witness. As a direct result of her sins, John says in chapter 18:
“Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
“And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
“Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come.”
Throughout Revelation 18, John prophesies of how the people of the world will stand back and mourn the death of this great “Babylon”. They will weep for her because of all the material things that will be destroyed in the final battles. All that man has ever built will suddenly come to an end in one tremendous day of destruction. From this single passage, there can be no doubt that the cities of the last empire will fall by fire. In fact, he says that sailing ships will stand “afar off” in the seas and watch as the cities burn (Rev. 18:17). This is surely a likely scenario of what will happen after the nuclear exchange occurs. Though many nuclear missiles will explode in the oceans as the superpowers try to wipe out each others’ naval vessels, the vast open oceans and seas will really be among the safest of places to be—that is if any place on Earth at that time could be called safe.
When the Western Alliance and Russia send ICBM’s on each others’ cities and military targets, the best chance to survive will be if you’re far away from land on the open seas. After the initial nuclear exchange has ended, the survivors will approach the coasts and find the great cities of the world in fiery ruin. They will weep and wail as they see the greatest works of mankind being burnt up before their eyes in massive firestorms and conflagrations.
In each of these predictions, the evidence continually points toward a massive holocaust at the very end of this age. In all parts of the world, the nations will experience a catastrophe unparalleled in history. However, the Biblical prophecies of the Great Tribulation do not merely relate to descriptions of fire. There are also many other Effects of Nuclear War that are accurately described in the Bible.
Next: The Blast Wave