Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”
The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and was adapted from our study of Revelation 8:
“Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter” (Revelation 8:10-11).
Revelation 8 covers the first four out of seven trumpet judgments, poured out in response to the prayers of the saints (vs. 4; cf. Rev. 6:10). The first trumpet involved the burning up of a third of the trees and all of the grass (vs. 7), and the second trumpet involved a third of the sea turning to blood and the death of a third of the living creatures in the sea (vss. 8-9).
Rev. 8:10-11, quoted above, details the third trumpet and speaks of a “great star” falling from heaven, “burning like a torch,” causing many deaths as a third of the rivers and springs of water become wormwood (bitter). As Steve Gregg, the author of Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary) points out, some futurists interpret this trumpet judgment symbolically, as referring either to a future Antichrist (e.g. Arno Gaebelein) or a future Pope (e.g. H.A. Ironside) who causes much corruption (Gregg, pp. 161, 163). Other futurist interpreters (e.g. Henry Morris, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord) see this as a literal reference to a burning meteorite or “a giant set of meteors” that will enter earth’s atmosphere “with contaminating influence upon the rivers and waters” of the entire planet (p. 165). Steve Gregg’s articulation of the Preterist (fulfilled) interpretation reflects my own understanding:
The turning of fresh water sources bitter and toxic may be in part a literal result of the decaying corpses that lay in the Sea of Galilee and in the river as the result of war [i.e. the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD]. However, this fouling of the waters has symbolic significance, occurring as it does here to the nation of Israel. There is probably an intentional allusion to the promise (and implied threat) God made to Israel when they first came out of Egypt. When they came to the bitter waters of Marah, in response to Moses’ casting a tree into the waters, God made the waters sweet and wholesome… However, God’s promise/warning implies that their disobedience to Him will result in His placing upon them the same plagues that He placed on the Egyptians—the waters can be made bitter again [cf. Exodus 15:25-26, Deuteronomy 28:59-60]… It is noteworthy that throughout the pages of Revelation, the plagues that come upon the apostates are comparable to those with which God afflicted the Egyptians in the days of Moses [See the end of this article for a list of more of these parallels]. The star which was burning like a torch (v. 10) is reminiscent of the tree cast into the waters by Moses, but has the opposite effect (pp. 160, 162).
Gregg also quotes from David Chilton, who adds,
The name of this fallen star is Wormwood, a term used in the Law and the Prophets to warn Israel of its destruction as a punishment for apostasy (Deut. 29:18; Jer. 9:15; 23:15; Lam. 3:15, 19; Amos 5:7). Again, by combining these Old Testament allusions, St. John makes his point: Israel is apostate, and has become an Egypt; Jerusalem has become a Babylon; and the covenant-breakers will be destroyed, as surely as Egypt and Babylon were destroyed (Gregg, p. 164).
To further illustrate this point, it’s also instructive to consider the test for adultery under the Law of Moses, as recorded in Numbers 5:11-31. This test was to be administered by a priest in cases where a married woman was suspected of defiling herself in an adulterous manner (Numbers 5:11-14). The priest would mix dust from the floor of the tabernacle into holy water contained in a vessel, to create “the water of bitterness that brings the curse” (vss. 16-18). The woman would then take the following oath:
If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband’s authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, then (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh fall away and your body swell. May this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away (vss. 20-22).
The woman would then say, “Amen. Amen,” and the curses would be written into a book and washed off into the bitter water. The woman would then be made to drink the water (vss. 23-26), with the following possible results:
And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children (vss. 27-28).
If this imagery and this procedure is the background of the third trumpet judgment, then this is one more indication that Israel had been found to be apostate. Many people died from the bitter water because they were indeed guilty of spiritual adultery, and were found to be in a state of defilement.
Sam Storms shares some interesting thoughts as well regarding how Revelation parallels the plagues which came upon Egypt, the enemy of God’s people at the time:
One of the fascinating things in Revelation is the way it portrays the experience of the people of God in terms very similar to what transpired for Israel in Egypt and the ten plagues of judgment. For example,
1) prominence of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:1-31) // 1) prominence of glassy sea (Rev. 15:2)
2) song of deliverance (Ex. 15:1-18) // 2) song of deliverance (Rev. 15:2-4)
3) God’s enemy: Pharaoh // 3) God’s enemy: the Beast
4) court magicians of Egypt // 4) the False Prophet
5) persecution of Israel // 5) persecution of the Church
6) protected from plagues (Ex. 8:22; 9:4,26; 10:23; 11:7) // 6) protected from wrath (Rev. 7:1-8; 9:4)
7) hardened/unrepentant (Ex. 8:15; 9:12-16) // 7) hardened/unrepentant (Rev. 16:9,11,21)
8] the name of God (Ex. 3:14) // 8] the name of God (Rev. 1:4-6)
9) Israel redeemed from bondage by blood // 9) Church redeemed from sin by blood
10) Israel made a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:6) // 10) Church made a kingdom of priests (Rev. 1:6)
11) 7th plague (Ex. 9:22-25) // 11) 1st trumpet [Rev. 8:7]
12) 6th plague (Ex. 9:8-12) // 12) 1st bowl [Rev. 16:2]
13) 1st plague (Ex. 7:20-25) // 13) 2nd/3rd trumpet & 2nd/3rd bowl [Rev. 8:8-11, 16:3-7]
14) 9th plague (Ex. 10:21-23) // 14) 4th trumpet & 4th bowl [Rev. 8:12-13, 16:8-9]
15) 8th & 9th plagues (Ex. 10:1-20) // 15) 5th trumpet & 5th bowl [Rev. 9:1-12, 16:10-11]
Jesus so often described His generation in Israel as “adulterous”, “evil”, “wicked”, “vile,” etc. He predicted that they would be held to account and judged for shedding the blood of the prophets and saints (Matthew 23:29-38). The book of Revelation was written concerning “things which must shortly take place,” for “the time [was] near” (Rev. 1:1-3; 22:6, 10, 12). John saw the great city, where Jesus was crucified (Rev. 11:8) as an adulterous woman (a “harlot”), ripe for judgment because she was full of the blood of the prophets, apostles, and saints (see my studies on Rev. 16:4-6, 17:1-6, and 18:20-24).
First century Israel was full of adultery, and guilty of shedding much innocent blood. The terms of Israel’s law code, which was about to go up in flames with Jerusalem and the temple, called for “the water of bitterness that brings the curse” (Numbers 5:20). And Israel’s water was poisoned with bitterness, Wormwood, in her final hour before destruction came. Thank God that He had already prepared a bride, clothed in fine linen and adorned for Himself, her husband (Rev. 19:1-9, 21:1-3).
All of our studies on the book of Revelation can be seen here.
18 thoughts on “Wormwood (Revelation 8): An OT-based Judgment Upon Unfaithful Israel”
Food for thought, anti-Semitism is on the rise, again. Seemingly, God would have been done with it in 70 AD based on your view. The Jew would have absorbed the full punishment of God, all the bowls and trumpets and wrath would have already been poured out. Yet through out recorded history, pogroms against this specific people group have continued. Satan, seems to think they are still important. Satan inspired religions still want to kill them all and drive them into the sea. What does Satan know that preterists do not know?
Hi Chuck. What are you saying God was done with in 70 AD, based on my view? Anti-Semitism? I’m not sure I understand your meaning here.
God’s judgment upon national Israel for their killing of the saints, prophets, and apostles was carried out in the first century, just like Jesus said it would be: “…that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth [or “in the land”], from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:35-36). This same impending judgment is announced in Revelation 16:3-6, 17:1-6, and 18:20-24 upon an entity referred to as a “harlot” (a.k.a. “the great city,” which is said to be Jerusalem – Rev. 11:8).
In Revelation 8, one of the judgments involves a star called Wormwood, which makes the waters bitter. This is a reference drawn from the old covenant, describing how individual or national adultery could be punished. This ties in with Revelation’s portrayal of Jerusalem/Israel as a harlot (adulterer) ripe for judgment. The first century timing of this judgment is also appropriate because the book of Revelation was written concerning “things which must shortly take place,” for “the time [was] near” (Rev. 1:1-3; 22:6, 10, 12).
The Scriptures do not hang on today’s newspaper headlines. Here are three thoughts I have on anti-Semitism, though:  It’s ugly and ungodly when it happens  Many Jews in Israel today may very well not be Semitic at all, and therefore anti-Semitism doesn’t apply to them  Some of the loudest voices accusing others of anti-Semitism toward the Jews have awful things to say about Palestinian Arabs, a Semitic people who have, in fact, been driven into a corner by the sea.
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No no no. Jews are NOT semetic. If they speak yiddish, they are NOT semetic! Those are IMPOSTORS at every level. They are Japethites ( Gen 10) and Canaanites ( Malachi 2:10-11). That “Israel” which is Palestine belings to God’s people- God’s CHOSEN PEOPLE- the People He chooses >>>>> BORN AGAIN BLOOD BOUGHT CHRISTIANS!.
The jew H word ” holocaust” should be extremely offensive to any REAL Christian as it is the synogogue of satan “fake” jews trying to wiggle themselves into the place of Isaac and Jesus. Twice the word “Holocaust” is used in Scripture. When Noah got off the boat , he made a “holocaust” offering to the LORD. God told Abraham to take Isaac and make him a “Holocaust” offering. This is covenental!
The synogogue of Satan has perverted the covenant with the J Hword. Satan wants to be the center of the story – again!
If you believe the jewish H word as fact, you believe Satan. Here are some “facts” from the Jewish World Almanac: At the start of WW2 only 2.4 million jews occupied the areas of Europe that would be occupied by Germany. The world population if jews INCREASED from immediately BEFORE TO JUST AFTER WW2. ( If 6 million were lost. Assuming 50:50 male female ratio – every jew female 15-45 would have had to have been pregnant after the start of the war and have given birth to 3 children by the time of the census in 1949) Take the known facts and Do the math. Satan lies!
So when you say “anti-Semitism is rise again” what is really going on is that Truth is marching forward and pushing out Satan’s lies. The “little mountain” is filling the entire earth.
Wow, I believe there is a spiritual blindness to the truth of God’s covenant with Israel. A simple reading of Romans chapter 9-11 reveals that Paul is still talking about the physical descendants of Israel at the end of that section.
So, if the word of the Lord, does stand forever and He has a determined purpose to work through an obstinate, blind, adulterous people, to reveal the glory of His grace to the nations. And if, against all odds, that people still walk the earth, have been recently settled back into the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, speaking the Hebrew language and surrounded by ferocious enemies on all sides, all of that is just “newspaper headlines” to you. But, what if, God still has a “not yet” plan to restore them to Jerusalem, to purify it through fire and to make it a praise in all the earth. A physical locus from which to rule for a 1,000 years. To have a day of rest from the “prince of this world.” I could fill a page with scripture to back this up, but to those who are blind the page would appear dark. My point is, Satan still believes and fears the word of God, and He knows that the faithfulness of God, demands that the covenant be kept, so in ever growing rage, Satan inspires people all over the world to wipe this people out. The “everlasting hatred” did not end in 70 AD because that was not the end of the story. Satan knows that, and if the “church” does not they are in danger of being duped just like the majority of the church was duped during the Nazi time. But, what if, the church rose up like Papa Ten Boom and said, “We will absorb the flood of evil intended for them.” (Revelation 12:16,17) What if, in this display of sacrificial love, a beginning seed of jealousy (Romans 11:11) was planted to be given life on the day when the spirit of “grace and supplication” (Zechariah 12:10) is poured out on Gomer by the ever patient and loving Hosea. Thanks again for allowing this “exchange” of views.
Chuck, you’re welcome for the exchange of views, and for allowing them. I hope this doesn’t sound harsh, but I believe you’re missing a significant amount of the Bible’s message and a significant amount of new covenant truth.
When you say that God has “a determined purpose to work through an obstinate, blind, adulterous people, to reveal the glory of His grace to the nations,” I realize you’re talking about national Israel and/or the Jewish people. However, it’s a central part of the Bible’s message that God has already “reveal[ed] the glory of His grace to the nations” through Jesus. People from all nations have been receiving that grace and that glory for the last 2000 years, including Jews. There’s nothing yet to come when it comes to God’s grace. It’s here. It’s been here. It’s available. It’s been available. Furthermore, God leveled the playing field a long time ago. There is no special program and there are no special blessings for the Jews, or to be accomplished through the Jews, that are not also available in Christ for all who call upon Him (e.g. Romans 10:11-12). Jesus is all in all, and He is enough. God’s purposes, plans, programs, etc. are not wrapped up in a race of people or a nation with borders, but in His Son, Jesus.
When you talk about making earthly Jerusalem “a praise in all the earth,” this also stands in opposition to new covenant realities revealed in Scripture. As just one example, Paul was very clear that Jerusalem in his time (“Jerusalem which now is”) was in bondage along “with her children” (Galatians 4:25). That Jerusalem was about to be cast out (verse 30), and it was. On the other hand, “the Jerusalem above is free” and “is the mother of us all” (verse 26). We, the residents of the heavenly Jerusalem “are children of promise” (verse 28) and “the heir” (verse 30).
Revelation 12:16-17 is not about modern Israel or Jews living today or the Jewish people as a whole living in any time period. The dragon’s war and the flood that he spewed was directed toward those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (verse 17). Most Jews then and most Jews now had/have nothing to do with Jesus and His testimony.
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I understand your sentiment about Israel, but you seem to be forgetting that Jesus himself said that the kingdom would be taken from the Jews and given to a people who will produce its fruit (Matt.21:43-44). This of course includes believing Jews and gentiles, because God’s plan was to make the two one (Eph.2:14-16). As to your observation that Satan hates the Jews and is trying to destroy them by surrounded them with enemies that want to kill them, I can say the same about Christians, he hates us and wants to destroy us so we won’t be effective for the kingdom of God. Singling out Jews as hated more than others is no indication that they have a special purpose in the end times, in fact Jesus said that Christians: especially the Apostles, would be hated by all because of him, so your observation is tainted by your dispensational view that Israel has to be restored and be surrounded by enemies as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, the only problem is that Jesus, nor any of the Apostles made any such claims in their writings that Israel would be restored. One would think that if this was such an important event they would have said something concerning Israel’s restoration, but they don’t.
Matt. 21:43-44 is spoken to the chief priests and the Pharisee’s (verse 45) not Jews in general, since ALL of his disciples and ALL of the authors of the N.T. are Jews. We are grafted in to their vine. We are made a partakers of their covenants, we are made a part of the commonwealth of Israel so when Ephesians 2:14-16 is ripped out of context to shaft the Jews a reading of the full chapter reveals that we foreigners and strangers are brought into the Jewish household. God adopted the Jew, and then adopted us into their nation. The dividing wall is broken down by bringing us into their ‘grace chosen’ nation. Don’t go crazy and think that I am saying anything about another way to Jesus. Jesus is the only way. He chose to expand the Jewish kingdom, enlarge the Jewish kingdom to include the Gentiles. Read the whole chapter with that in mind. The Jew is referred to as citizens, those who are near, God’s people, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Gentiles on the other hand are referred to as being without hope and without God, excluded from citizenship in Israel. So the big crash of the dividing wall was to let us Gentiles into their covenant and promises. If you do not see that as it is plainly stated in this chapter I can not make you see it. I am NOT a dispensationalism person. I believe God has one book and one plan. I believe by the grace of God we are grafted into an already existing vine, Paul believed that too, so I am in good company. Peace.
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Quote: “Matt. 21:43-44 is spoken to the chief priests and the Pharisee’s (verse 45) not Jews in general, since ALL of his disciples and ALL of the authors of the N.T. are Jews.”
I agree Chuck Bean. But i believe that in speaking this to the leaders, Jesus is in fact proclaiming this to the Nation.
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;” Psalm 118: 22
Hans K. LaRondelle explains this as such:
Matthew does not separate the Jewish leaders from the Jewish Nation, as if God’s punishment is final for the leaders but only temporary for the Jewish Nation.
“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a “nation” (ethnos) producing the fruits of it.” (RSV)
Jesus’ parable of the unfaithful tenants clearly implies the rejection of Israel as a national theocracy; the loss of this privileged status as the exclusive people of God is also stated in Jesus’ eschatological saying of Matthew 8: 11-12:
“I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.”
The real punishment of the guilty nation was not the destruction of temple and city or the dispersion (in 70AD), it was the withdrawal of His presence, the taking away His kingdom or covenant blessing from the Nation. (Source; The Israel of God in Prophecy)
This did not then, nor has it ever negated the possibility of individual Jews (a remnant) from being part of God’s Kingdom, through faith in Jesus as the Messiah. As you pointed out, the early church was made up of Jews only.
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PJ I hope this ends up below your comment, because I am replying to your well thought out and well worded rebuttal to my comment. I note that Matthew 21:45 is not followed up with a comment from the Holy Spirit indicating the entire nation was in view, not just the leaders who took it personally and were offended at the stone of stumbling and the rock of offense. Also, I recently finished a study of Zechariah and found some related material. The “woes” of Matthew 23 are specifically directed toward the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites. God always preserves a remnant by grace and election within the nation. In Zechariah…sorry ran out of time, I promise I will come back
Okay, I’m back. Zechariah 11:8 speaks of 3 shepherds, I like the school of thought that has this being being elders, chief priests and rulers, the same saying Jesus uses in Luke 9:22. Jesus was rejected by the nation, but not the grace chosen remnant who were recording the words and forming the gathering of early believers. In Matt. 8:11,12, I can not help but notice that we are brought to the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, why even mention them if the nation is being discarded and a new start is happening. I see evidence all through the New Testament, that the “mostly Gentile” church is grafted into the Jewish vine. We are brought into what they already have. One day the entire nation, not just a remnant will turn to the Lord, Glorious Day.
I do agree with and love your thought that the real punishment is the withdrawal of His presence. That is truth. But He would never remove His covenant blessing, it is simply enlarged to include us. That is how I see it, thanks for listening.
Thanks for this civil discussion and good input, everyone. There are a few things I could respond to, but I’ll start with this one:
Chuck, you have stated that Matthew 21:43 (“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”) was spoken to the religious leaders of Israel, and not to the nation as a whole. You also said that the woes of Matthew 23 “are specifically directed toward the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites.” In other discussions, however (please correct me if I’m wrong), you’ve stated that Matthew 23:39 (“for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'”) is a promise to all Jews and/or the nation of Israel, and that it will be fulfilled for the entire nation of Israel one day in our future. If Matthew 21:43 and the woes of Matthew 23 were only spoken to the Jewish leaders standing in front of Jesus, then how does Matthew 23:39 become a promise for all Jews or all of national Israel one day yet to come? This is a question that came to my mind as I observed this conversation here and recalled other conversations that we’ve had.
My simple answer would be that only a 1/3 remnant of the nation will be left at that time. So although it will be the whole nation, it will be a nation that has been sifted through a time of Jacob’s trouble that will see 2/3 perish.
Acts 3:21, Romans 11, Matthew 19:28, Gal. 6:16 (God by grace preserves a remnant for salvation among the physical Jewish nation.) Acts 26:22, Romans 16:25,26 , Luke 21:24, Matt. 23:39, Eph. 2:12, 3:6, Acts 2:30, (the throne of David, the kingdom of God – both references to the restored Kingdom of Israel) Not sure why you limited the scripture choices to the NT, but here are some choice morsels from the OT Isaiah 62:6,7 , Ezek 36:22-23, 32
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There is one individual man that I have seen proposed as the fulfillment of the “great star” identified in Rev. 8:10 as “Wormwood”. I believe there is some solid ground in scripture that backs up this proposal, but I would like to run this idea past you and your readers for critical inspection to point out any flaws that this idea may have. It’s possible you may also have encountered this idea before as well. And I’m so sorry, but this is quite long in order to cover all the angles of proof. Please bear with me.
This “wormwood” plant mentioned in Rev. 8 is an interesting subject in and of itself. Naturally speaking, it is a fast-growing, invasive plant, with even its root system containing an oil that destroys many plants growing next to it. It is a bitter-tasting herb, and was what the writer of Hebrews 12:14-16 had in mind when cautioning against a “root of bitterness springing up” among the brethren that could defile many by leading them into fornicating or profanely selling their birthright as children of God for “one morsel of meat”. The Hebrews author was merely repeating Deuteronomy 29:18 that warned Israel against the abominations and idolatries of the surrounding nations – practices compared to a “root that beareth gall and wormwood”.
The character who matches the fallen “great star” in Rev. 8:10-11 (who is also the same fallen star in Rev. 9:1) has been proposed to be the sorcerer of Acts 8 named Simon the Magician, or “Simon Magus”. Some of the commentaries I have read online for the Acts 8 account of Peter’s confrontation with this Simon Magus are offering a different interpretation than the usual translation of Peter’s statement pronounced against Simon Magus in Acts 8:23. According to the Greek, they indicate that this statement of Peter’s was intended to be a PROPHECY concerning Simon Magus and what he would later become – not just a simple declaration that Simon Magus was then existing in a “gall of bitterness” and a “bond of iniquity” at that moment. In other words, to paraphrase Peter, it was not supposed to be translated “FOR I perceive that thou art (currently) in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity”. Instead, it was meant to be translated, “I perceive that thou art (intended to be) FOR a gall of bitterness and a bond of iniquity” (in the future among the church assemblies, that is).
As we know, Peter apparently had the God-given ability to discern spirits, (as he had done with Ananias and Sapphira), and was thus able to predict that Simon Magus would become a corrupting influence that would introduce BITTERNESS and the BONDAGE OF INIQUITY among the followers of Christs teachings.
Eusebius makes mention of Simon Magus’ history and his influence on the early church according to Justin Martyr and Irenaeus’ writings. Traditionally, Simon Magus was blamed for authoring ALL the heretical doctrines of the church in its early stages. I’m not certain that the blame for ALL heresies could be laid at Simon’s feet, but certainly one of the most notable among the list of heresies was the “doctrine of Balaam” that Simon developed to corrupt many weaker members of the church. The cult he started combined idolatry, sorcery, and the practice of fornication with nominal Christian beliefs included for a veneer of respectability. It was one of the “doctrines of devils” that Paul warned about in I Timothy 4:1 that would crop up in “the latter times”.
Simon eventually became bold enough to claim the status of a deity. According to Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and others, a certain woman named Helen who originally came from a brothel in Tyre attached herself to Simon’s cult as a devoted follower. Simon soon elevated her status to that of a goddess companion that he himself had created – presenting her as the sensual female counterpart to his own claim of deity. Helen is the woman referred to in Rev. 2:20, nicknamed “Jezebel”, who taught and seduced the servants of God in the Thyatira church to eat things offered to idols and to commit fornication. This was the same problem in the Pergamos church with its “doctrine of Balaam” that taught eating things offered to idols and committing fornication (Rev. 2:14). That is 2 out of 7 churches with this corrupt teaching – almost ONE THIRD of them mentioned specifically. Remember the fraction. It comes up later in Rev. 8:11.
This corrupt doctrine is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Jude 11 also brings it up, where the followers of the “doctrine of Balaam” are called “wandering STARS” (v. 13), “sensual” (v. 19), “walking after their own lust” (v. 16,18), who “defile the flesh” (v.8), “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness”, by creeping into the churches undetected (v.4).
This is the same problem highlighted in II Timothy 3:1-9, where it mentions the “lovers of pleasures” (v.4) who “creep into houses (house churches) and lead captive silly women, laden with sins, led away with divers lusts…” (v.6). These “men of corrupt minds” (v.8) are directly compared to the sorcerers of Pharaoh’s court in Exodus 7:11, Jannes and Jambres by name, who tried to copy all of Moses’ miraculous signs (similar to Simon the sorcerer wanting to mimic the miraculous works of the apostles in Acts 8).
The “doctrine of Balaam” cult is again brought up in II Peter 2 where these “false teachers among you” (v.1) would bring in “damnable heresies” which included “lascivious ways” that many would follow (v.2). These are called “cursed children” (v.14) who would “walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness” (v.10), “having eyes full of AN ADULTERESS” (v.14). This particular “adulteress” is none other than Simon’s consort Helen from the brothel in Tyre – the “Jezebel” of Rev. 2:20, whose “children” were going to be “killed with death” if they did not repent (Rev. 2:23). This “adulteress” is compared to a “sow” that would return to her “wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:22). A fitting reference to the brothel in Tyre that Helen came from originally before she became a co-leader of Simon’s cult that taught the same perversion.
These “cursed children” (II Peter 2:14) are also called “fountains without water”, who used the allure of the “lusts of the flesh” (v.18) to bring others into “bondage” (v.19) – the same “bond of iniquity” that Peter prophesied earlier in Acts 8:23 that Simon would eventually bring into the church. These “FOUNTAINS without water” – the followers of the doctrine of Balaam – were the “ONE THIRD” part of the rivers and fountains of waters that the great star “Wormwood” would make bitter in Rev. 8:11. “Many men died” because of the bitter waters, Rev. 8:11 says – just as the “children” of “Jezebel” (Helen the adulteress) had God’s promise that He would kill them after a period of great tribulation unless they repented (Rev. 2:22-23).
I believe this promised “great tribulation” is the AD 64 Neronian persecution of the Christians that Peter spoke of as ongoing in I Peter 4. The “fiery trial which is happening to you” (v.12) was the blistering pogrom against the Christians which had started after the AD 64 fire at Rome. “The time (season) is come that judgment must begin at the house of God” (the church), Peter said in I Peter 4:17. Under this “season” of persecution for the early church by Nero, the church would be purged of the bitter corruption that had crept into one-third of its “rivers and fountains of waters” by the influence of Simon Magus – the great star named “Wormwood” – the “great power of God” as the deluded Samaritans once called him in Acts 8:10. Even though countless righteous ones perished under this AD 64-68 persecution, it merely served to provide that many more who were able to participate in the bodily resurrection of AD 70. This was God’s ultimate design behind allowing Nero to “wear out the saints” (Dan. 7:25) during that time. It maxed out the number of believers who were bodily resurrected to heaven in AD 70.
Since Simon Magus’ reputation in Samaria was originally launched by his collusion with the demonic world as noted in Acts 8, it is not hard to see him pictured as the same fallen star of Rev. 9:1 who is given the key to the bottomless pit. From the time Simon Magus had first encountered the miraculous power of the apostles in Acts 8, he had coveted their God-given abilities of conferring the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. Simon Peter had been given the key to the kingdom of heaven by Christ (Matt. 16:19). In direct contrast to this, Simon Magus who wanted to purchase this apostolic power was apparently given the key to the bottomless pit in order to release demonic “locusts” into the land of Israel for a judgment on that nation.
This 5-month “locust” invasion of the demons and their king, Apollyon, came to a head in that May-September period of Ad 66 when Gessius Florus and his troops were being used by demonic powers to harrass and torment the inhabitants of Judea into the inevitable rebellion. Somehow, Simon the sorcereer was instrumental in releasing these demonic forces during that “short time” and the “little season” when Satan was loosed to deceive the nations without restraint (from the literal 1,000-year millennium’s end in AD 33 through AD 70).
Here is the quote by Justin Martyr, found in Eusebius, where he refers to Simon’s participation with demonic powers at that time.
“After the Lord’s ascension” (in AD 33), “the demons presented men who claimed to be gods, and they not only escaped being persecuted by you but even became objects of worship. Simon, a Samaritan from a village called Gittho,” (originally established by the idolatrous tribe of Dan), “worked wonders through magic in Claudius’s time, thanks to the demons who possessed him……..Nearly all Samaritans and a few in other nations also acknowledge him as their chief deity and worship him. And a woman named Helen, who traveled around with him but had previously lived in a brothel [at Tyre], they call the First Emanation from him.”
Irenaeus is another, Eusebius says, who re peats this record of Simon’s history of heretical teaching, as does Theodoret, I am told, although I have not read these sources yet. What is most convincing to me that Simon is the fulfillment of this “Wormwood” title is the timing involved. Each of the trumpets happen in progressive fashion, one following another on the calendar. This same pattern is repeated within the individual categories of seal and bowl judgments also. The half-hour pause of silence before the trumpets sound in Rev. 8:1 may be the “SPACE (chronos) to repent her fornication” in Rev. 2:21 that God gave to the woman “Jezebel” (Helen – Simon Magus’ fellow cult leader). After all, if the ONE HOUR it took for Babylon/Jerusalem to fall equaled a literal 3 1/2 years, then HALF AN HOUR would be the literal equivalent of half that time period.
I’m not entirely sure what the 1st trumpet represents, but the 2nd trumpet sounds as if the “mountain burning with fire” cast into the sea is the great fire at Rome in AD 64, after which a third of the living creatures (Christian believers) in this Gentile “sea” would die as martyrs.
Next, with the 3rd trumpet, Simon Magus (a.k.a. “Wormwood”) corrupted ONE THIRD of the rivers and fountains of waters (the Christian assemblies) with his bitter “doctrine of Balaam” cult. As Peter said in II Peter 2:13 (Interlinear), these “fountains without water” who followed the way of Balaam were “ABOUT TO RECEIVE the reward of unrighteousness”. If this is speaking of the judgment that had begun “at the house of God” (I Peter 4:17) under Nero’s AD 64-68 persecution, that aligns with events that followed the 2nd trumpet starting in AD 64.
Next, the 4th trumpet shows sun, moon, and starts being darkened by a third as the Jews’ own national identity began to break down in the rising rebellious spirit of the times. (This is in the sense that Joseph’s dream relates the sun, moon, and stars to the ethnic nation of Israel).
Next, the 5th trumpet releases the “locust” swarm of demonic powers between May – September of AD 66. These collaborated with Gessius Florus’ troops, tormenting the citizens of the nation into full revolt. (Logically, this fits better in AD 66 than in AD 70 to keep things in sequence.)
Next, the 6th trumpet loosed the 4 Idumean leaders of the 20,000 Idumean horsemen who traveled to Jerusalem, broke into the city during that nighttime storm, and killed 7,000 along with the two witnesses, Joshua and Ananus (AD 67 or 68, depending on your calendar sources).
Finally, the 7th trumpet closed out with AD 70 when the kingdoms of this world, formerly under the subjugation of the god of this world, Satan, under the Old Covenant age, became the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, when all unclean spirits passed out of the land forever under the New Covenant Age. It was the time for the dead to be judged, and when God “brought to corruption those who had corrupted the earth” (Rev. 11:18), whether that source of corruption was human or demonic.
Okay, that was a real dump-truck load for anyone to process. I should offer apologies again for crowding your comment section, Adam. If there are errors presented here, I hope someone will be gracious enough to point them out for me to correct. And blessings on your continued Bible studies in this upcoming year, Adam.
It’s good to hear from you. Thank you for providing all this food for thought. My response here won’t represent a total evaluation of all this, not even close. I’m going to have to take more time later to ponder some of these things.
I do think that the life of Simon Magus contains more significance than most seem to give it, and that he had more of an impact (a negative one) on the early church than most seem to know. So I appreciate this opportunity to explore that further. I also was unaware of Helen and her status of a goddess companion to Simon. I have a question on that, though. You said, “Helen is the woman referred to in Rev. 2:20, nicknamed ‘Jezebel,’ who taught and seduced the servants of God in the Thyatira church to eat things offered to idols and to commit fornication.” Did Justin Martyr or one of his contemporaries say that Helen = Jezebel in Rev. 2:20, or is that your conclusion? If one of them said it, do you have a link or a reference for their statement? Thanks.
Regarding the timing of the trumpet judgments, did you happen to see this post I published in early November?
It contains nine case studies comparing the writings of Josephus with the book of Revelation. It’s meant to be an ongoing project, especially for the chart that you’ll find near the top of the post. Anyway, one of my goals with that post and with that project is to examine the timing of the seals, trumpets, and bowls. The more parallels that can be nailed down with certainty, I feel, the more confident that we can be about the structure of the book of Revelation.
In that project, I did examine seeming parallels between the works of Josephus and Revelation 8:7-9 (the first and second trumpets). I didn’t touch the third trumpet (Wormwood). My interpretation isn’t infallible, and I would be glad to know what you think, but it appears to me that the first and second trumpets were fulfilled between March – August 67 AD, as the Romans marched through Galilee (more details in the link above).
So, if that is correct, then the third, fourth, and fifth trumpets would be expected to take place between spring/summer 67 AD and early 68 AD when the Idumeans came with an army of 20,000 to Jerusalem (sixth trumpet). I’ve been wondering if the fifth trumpet was fulfilled when Titus led the 15th legion known as Apollinaris through parts of Galilee. This legion played an important role in Titus’ conquests in 67 AD, conquering Jotapata, Gamala, and other towns, and also capturing Josephus. I’d have to dig a bit to see how long Apollinaris was there with Titus, but it’s striking that Revelation 9:11 mentions the name Apollyon, which is very similar to Apollinaris. I have an earlier post on this site where I speculated that Revelation 9 was fulfilled during the Roman siege of 70 AD, but I know now that that wasn’t the correct timing.
There is one bit of revision I would like to post with regard to the second trumpet judgment that I formerly suggested above as being the AD 64 fire at Rome – that “great mountain burning with fire” that was “cast into the sea”, etc. (Rev. 8:8-9). I’ve studied more during these past few years about the increase in seismic activity during the first century (which Christ predicted in Luke 21:11, Matt. 24:7-8 would be the “beginning of sorrows” immediately preceding the “great tribulation” period of AD 66-70). I am thinking there is a better historical match for the second trumpet than the one I previously proposed. I believe this second trumpet judgment could likely be fulfilled by the AD 62/63 eruption of Mount Vesuvius which created great destruction in Pompeii and Herculaneum, a precursor of its eventual AD 79 cataclysmic eruption that buried both cities completely under deep layers of ash .
On that same Feb. 5th day in AD 62/63, Vesuvius’s earthquake launched a tsunami which spread to the Roman port of Ostia and sank a total of 300 Alexandrian ships which had just arrived to deliver Rome’s grain supply for that entire year. Panic and riots ensued when the Roman citizens realized that they could starve. Nero then had to open the grain storehouses as an emergency measure. This would be Rev. 8:9’s “third part of the ships” that would be destroyed by the second trumpet.
The Mount Vesuvius epicenter continued to give warning signs for those decades leading up to its AD 79 cataclysm. We know this because there are photos of the nearby excavated Herculaneum inhabitants’ extensive repair on their damaged buildings, especially along the former coastline. Sea walls were built to protect themselves against the rising wave levels, and massive domed earthquake shelters were constructed along the beach. Some lower floors of buildings were totally walled up and then abandoned, because the sea level was rising and falling repetitively as much as 16 feet or so as the level of the ground alternately swelled and collapsed in turn during those years. This sounds very much like Christ’s warning about “the sea and the waves roaring” during that period (Luke 21:25). Men’s hearts would fail them for fear at seeing what would happen on the whole habitable earth (oikoumene) – not just Israel alone.
As further evidence of Christ’s imminent prophesy about “the sea and the waves roaring”, I believe Paul’s AD 60 voyage to Rome was also included. That traumatic two-week storm caused by the tempestuous wind called “Euroclydon” as they attempted to sail to Rome took a full chapter to describe in Acts 27. This, too, would qualify as taking place during the “beginning of sorrows” before the AD 66-70 great tribulation period had arrived.
Adam, I believe your position is that ALL of the trumpets should be concentrated on the “earth” as the sole location of judgment – the “earth” being the LAND OF ISRAEL in particular. However, although the brunt of the judgment on that generation fell in vengeance on the Jews, the rest of the world was NOT excluded from the effects of that tumultuous period. That is because John gave a warning in Rev. 12:12 to BOTH the “inhabitants of the SEA” (Gentile lands) AND to “the inhabitants of the EARTH” (Judea and the nation of Israel) that Satan was then afflicting BOTH of them at that time during that “short time” after the millennium had already ended.
Those earthquake events that Christ predicted were “*ABOUT TO* come to pass” soon after (Luke 21:36), and were going to be “in *DIVERS* PLACES” (Luke 21:11). This sounds as if they probably took place in other areas of the known world, and not just in Judea and the land of Israel, which has a seismic fault line running up the River Jordan. This increase in earthquake activity in the first century was so notable that it prompted Seneca to write an entire book called “Concerning Earthquakes”. In this volume, Seneca commented on Mount Vesuvius’s recent AD 62/63 earthquake, urging those who were hurriedly packing up and leaving the area to remain, since earthquakes, he said, could happen anywhere. Unfortunately, Seneca didn’t realize the connection between the Mountain of Vesuvius and the earthquake phenomenon then taking place.
Another of those soon-coming earthquake events Christ prophesied about was also one that Seneca commented about in his book “Concerning Earthquakes”. It was located just above Crete – the Thera caldera, the same location as the island which had famously erupted long before in approximately 1550 BC, ruining the Minoan civilization in Crete. That huge Thera caldera became active once more in AD 46/47, and the eruption created a new island within the center of the caldera.
I believe this increased earthquake and volcanic activity in the first century was also predicted by Joel 2:30, just after his prophecy about the day of Pentecost’s spirit being poured out upon all flesh in Joel 2:28-29. God said that “I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and FIRE, and PILLARS OF SMOKE” that would come before the “great and terrible day of the Lord” arrived. What is an erupting volcanic ash cloud but a “pillar of smoke” to those viewing it from a distance?
If needed, I can list the sources I read and viewed to get some of the information above.
Your work is really interesting and well researched, I am enjoying it a lot even though it’s obviously a little orientated towards your church.
I just read your section on wormwood the star in revelations and would ask you to consider the following. Is it possible that the star is representative of the false Messiah’s (there were many of these before the final destruction of the temple by Hadrian) who twisted the words of holy scripture to suit their egoistic and greedy ends? In this respect, the waters were the words of holy scripture and wormwood was the false prophets making those same words give a bitter taste. This also describes the reality of the physical scene in that the adult males of Israel were being lost for generations to each successive messianic rebellion against Rome- literally they were losing one third of their population each time with bodies being thrown into rivers and lakes to deny a proper burial.