The Fourth Trumpet

Author: Eduardo Freire Canosa
(University of Toronto Alumnus)

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)

Irvin Baxter demonstrates that the First Trumpet sounded with the First World War, the Second Trumpet sounded with the Second World War, and the Third Trumpet with the Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant reactor meltdown.

I submit that the Fourth Trumpet has not yet sounded (as of Thursday January 12, 2017).

Problems With Revelation 8:12

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: This sentence is quite problematic. First it does not specify what strikes the sun and the moon and a third of the stars! Second, if a third of the sun turned dark, this would not cause a third of the day to be without light, but it would cause the sun to shine at two thirds its normal brilliance, likewise the moon. Third, a collision between our sun and another star is impossible because our universe is expanding like a balloon, therefore the distance between gravitationally uncoupled astral bodies is increasing with time, not decreasing. Fourth, the appearance of a giant sunspot that covers a third of the sun's surface area is remote. Fifth, the writer ignored that moonlight is reflected sunlight because he insists on having an object hit the moon in order to reduce its brightness by the same factor as the sun's. Sixth, the darkening of a third of all the stars in the night sky as a result of an equal number of hits is far-fetched.

Conclusion: The first sentence of Revelation 8:12 is full of holes.

The theological dilemma is: did the "word of the Lord" inspire this absurd explanation or is this another unwelcome contribution of the same editor who introduced spurious chapter 7 and spurious verses 14:1-5 and 17:9 in the Book of Revelation as discussed on the webpage "New York Is 'Babylon The Great'"? The assistance of Old Testament text dealing with unusual behaviour of the sun is required.

The Old Testament lists a few instances of unusual behaviour of the sun. Joshua prayed to the Lord against the Amorites and the sun ceased moving (Joshua 10:12-13). Job replies to Bildad the Shuhite and says in reference to God, "He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars" (Job 9:7). "The Lord gave this sign to King Hezekiah: 'I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.' So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down" (Isaiah 38:7-8). Ezekiel prophesies that the Lord will cover the sun, the moon and the stars with a cloud over Egypt (Ezekiel 32:7-8). The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Joel 2:31). The Sovereign Lord will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight in his day of wrath against his people Israel (Amos 8:9).

The cause of the abnormal behaviour ranges from miraculous to natural. The cause of Joshua 10:12-14 would be the stoppage of Earth's rotation, admittedly in violation of the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, still a minor miracle in comparison with the Apocalypse verse under scrutiny. The cause of Job 9:7 could be cloud or an eclipse. The cause of Isaiah 38:7-8 would be a miniscule backward rotation of Earth in violation once more of the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum. The cause of Ezekiel 32:7-8 is stated: clouds over the entire country. The cause of Joel 2:31 is also stated: smoke (Joel 2:30). The cause of Amos 8:9 is probably air-borne debris after a devastating earthquake (Amos 8:8).

According to the Old Testament, therefore, the sole reason for "the sun turning to darkness" is the blocking of sunlight by clouds or maybe by an eclipse.

The Old Testament credits the Lord always for the sun's abnormal behaviour. When the sun stood still over Gibeon, "there has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel" (Joshua 10:14). Before the day of the Lord, "I [the Lord] will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke" (Joel 2:30).

Hence the scribes of the Old Testament would have written the first sentence of Revelation 8:12 thus,

The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and the Lord struck a third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark.

Conclusion: The first sentence of Revelation 8:12 fails the test of Old Testament compatibility.

Worse yet, the source of the odd clause, "a third of the sun was struck," is a Greek myth. According to the ancient Greeks the sun crosses the sky on a chariot drawn by four horses and driven by a Titan named Helios. Helios had several children, among them Phaeton. One day Phaeton decided to go for a joyride on his father's chariot. At some point he lost control of the vehicle and the sun swerved perilously close to Earth, setting it on fire. All the minor deities living on the planet screamed to Zeus for help. The supreme god saw the emergency, grabbed a giant bolt of lightning and hurled it at the chariot. The bolt struck the sun chariot and Phaeton son of Helios fell to Earth, dead.

Conclusion: The phrase, "a third of the sun was struck," is borrowed from the myth of Phaeton son of Helios.

Therefore the first sentence of Revelation 8:12 is spurious and the original text simply said,

The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.

Volcanic-Ash Overcast

A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night: The foregoing review of Old Testament text offers a natural explanation for the loss of daylight hours, namely dense clouds of smoke. The smoke must cover the whole world or a wide swath as did the First World War, the Second World War and the radioactive cloud from the Chernobyl nuclear-power-plant reactor meltdown.

Since Revelation 8:12 does not intimate a man-made disaster, the likely source of the planetary blanket of smoke is one or more volcanic eruptions—and since the magnitude of the first three Trumpet events was unprecedented, the fourth's must be also—the eruption(s) must be greater than the famous Krakatoa Island explosion of the year 1883. That blast is believed to have been the loudest sound of modern history, according to Wikipedia, it was heard up to 4,800 kilometers away.

The spectacular eruptions of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic fissure of South Chile in the year 2011 provide a glimpse of what to expect. The main episode started on Monday June 6. The fickle weather patterns of late autumn carried some of the ash northeastward to Buenos Aires and neighbouring Montevideo, but the bulk moved east to Cape City, Perth, Melbourne and Auckland, forcing the various national airlines to cancel their domestic and international flights. This cloud circumvented its latitude in twelve days and returned to South Chile on June 18 forcing the cancellation of flights a second time there. Scientists estimated that the fissure detonated 100,000,000 tonnes of "ash, sand and pumice" into the air with the equivalent energy of seventy atomic bombs.

The Argentinian territory most affected by the precipitation of particulate matter experienced service cuts of water and electricity. Some towns near the Chilean border reported up to thirty centimeters of ash on the ground. Several provincial governments declared a state of "social and economic emergency" in the worst-affected areas, here the cloud "also brought loud thunderclaps and flashes of lightning."

An article published in the newspaper La Nación two months after the episode cautioned that the ecological impact was "expected to linger for years to come" over a wide tract of the nation's south.


Elementary Trigonometry An overcast of volcanic ash both dims the sun and shortens the daylight hours as the following simple analogy of a hazy summer day quantifies. Please refer to the diagram on the right.

Consider a sunny day with an uniform layer of haze (ocre-coloured rectangle) having a thickness h = 100 meters. The numerical value chosen for h is much smaller than Earth's radius (6,371 kilometers) hence the flat-earth approximation is adequate. The degree to which the sun (upper right) will be dimmed is proportional to the distance travelled by the sunrays through the haze before they reach an observer on the ground. This transit distance varies with the elevation angle θ of the sun. The distance equals a hundred meters if the sun shines directly overhead. It becomes infinite when the sun lies on the horizon.

The Table below presents six elevation angles of the sun and the corresponding distance covered by the sunrays through the haze.

Elevation Angle
  Transit Through Haze
60     116
40     156
30     200
20     292
10     576
 5   1,147

If the composition of the haze is such that a layer 576 meters thick would completely blot out the sun directly overhead, then the Table shows that our layer 100 meters thick will blot out the solar disc for every elevation angle under 10°.

If the sun takes forty minutes to describe an arc of 10° in the sky, the hazy day will lose an hour and twenty minutes of daylight because the sun will rise from and set on a false horizon hovering 10° above the flat-earth horizon.

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