Another important observation about Revelation 8, the chapter that includes the famous Wormwood prophecy. This is the judgment that accompanies the blowing of the third trumpet, when “a great star” falls from heaven, “blazing like a torch.”[i] The judgment prior to that, after the second angel sounds his trumpet, is just as ominous:
The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.
A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. (Revelation 8:8–9)
It’s well known that stars in the Bible often represent angels. But mountains, and specifically burning mountains, also denote supernatural beings in ancient Jewish thought.
Earlier we mentioned that the temple of Enlil, the chief god of Mesopotamia before the rise of Babylon and Marduk, was called the E-kur, or “Mountain House.” One of the god’s main titles was “Great Mountain.”[ii] Derek Gilbert showed in chapter 8 of his book Bad Moon Rising that Enlil was identified across the ancient world as the deity who was the king of the second generation of gods, inheriting (or taking) kingship from the sky-god before eventually turning it over (or losing it) to a storm-god.
To simplify, the generations looked like this:
As noted earlier, the “Great Mountain” Enlil was the same entity known elsewhere as El, Dagan (Dagon to the Philistines), Kronos, and Saturn. This entity is linked to both mountains and the underworld in all his incarnations. In fact, the word kur in Sumerian means both “mountain” and “netherworld,” which means that the “Mountain House” of Enlil carries the double meaning of “Underworld House.”
Elsewhere, the Amorites of western Mesopotamia believed that Enlil’s alter ego, El, dwelt on Mount Hermon. The Hurrian incarnation, Kumarbi, created a giant stone monster, Ullikummi (essentially a sentient mountain), to battle the storm-god, Teshub. One of Dagan’s epithets along the Euphrates in Syria, where he was worshiped as the supreme god, was bēl pagrê—“lord of the corpse,” or “lord of the funerary offering.”[iii] And you are probably familiar with the story of the rebellion of Zeus/Jupiter and the Olympians against the Titans, led by Kronos/Saturn, and the latter’s imprisonment in Tartarus after losing the war.
The link between Enlil/El/Dagan/Kronos and the abyss is one of the reasons we connect the Titans of Greek mythology, whose king was Kronos, to the “sons of God” of Genesis 6 and the Watchers of the Book of 1 Enoch. Peter specifically described the punishment of the angels who sinned, referring to the Genesis 6 event, as tartaróo—literally, “thrust down to Tartarus.”[iv] It’s important to note that tartaróo is used only once in the Bible, and it is not interchangeable with Hades (hell). Tartarus—the abyss—was a separate place, “as far beneath Hades as heaven is above Earth.”[v]
Peter knew this. By his day, the Jews of Judea had been under Greek and Roman control, and exposed to their religion, for three and a half centuries. There is ample evidence in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament translated by Jewish scholars more than two hundred years before the birth of Jesus, that religious Jews understood very well the connection between the Titans, the Watchers, and the Nephilim.[vi] And besides, Peter wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
All of this—Greek tales of the monstrous Titans of old and the burning mountains of Revelation—may have its origin in older stories preserved in the Book of 1 Enoch. During his travels with the archangel Uriel as his guide, Enoch is shown “pillars of fire descending,” which he’s told are “angels who mingled with the women.”[vii] From there:
I traveled to where it was chaotic. And there I saw a terrible thing; I saw neither heaven above, nor firmly founded earth, but a chaotic and terrible place. And there I saw seven of the stars of heaven, bound and thrown in it together, like great mountains, and burning in fire. Then I said, “For what reason have they been bound, and for what reason have they been thrown here?” Then Uriel said to me, one of the holy angels who was with me, and he was their leader, he said to me, “Enoch, why do you inquire, and why are you eager for the truth? These are the stars of heaven that transgressed the command of the Lord; they have been bound here until ten thousand years are fulfilled—the time of their sins.”[viii] (1 Enoch 21:1–5; emphasis added)
In the passage above, the seven “stars of heaven” refer to angels, just as they often do in the Old Testament. And, just like the chief Sumerian god Enlil, they are also described as “great mountains.” Other verses that refer to angels as burning mountains are found in 1 Enoch 18:13 and 24:1.
Given our modern understanding of the concept of hell and punishment, we can be forgiven for thinking that the burning is part of their punishment. Not necessarily. The angels who transgressed in 1 Enoch were bound, and that appears to be the principal burden of their sentence. The mountains are aflame simply because that is their nature.
The root word behind “seraphim,” saraph, derives from a Hebrew verb that means “to burn.”[ix] Hence, “seraphim” may be roughly translated as “burning ones.” And that clarifies a section of Scripture from Ezekiel:
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
from the midst of the stones of fire. (Ezekiel 28:14–16; emphasis added)
Some Bible scholars speculate that these verses are evidence of the destruction of a planet that once occupied the orbit of the rocks that float between Mars and Jupiter in the asteroid belt, perhaps during an angelic rebellion before the creation of Adam. Allow us to suggest another explanation.
The seraphim of Isaiah 6 serve as guardians of the throne of God, like the “guardian cherub” of Ezekiel 28 (and the cherubim described in Ezekiel chapters 1 and 10). Thus, the cherubim and seraphim may well be the same type of angel. In fact, Ezekiel wrote that the cherubim of his vision “sparkled like burnished bronze” (or “brass”), and “their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.”[x]
It’s safe to say that “burning ones” is a fair description of these entities.
We know from Mesopotamian texts that the title “Great Mountain” referred to one of the most prominent gods of the ancient world, Enlil. Both terms—“burning” and “mountain”—were used to describe angels in 1 Enoch. And what are burning mountains but “stones of fire,” the phrase used in Ezekiel 28?
This suggests an alternate interpretation of the trumpet judgments of Revelation 8: Perhaps what appear to be prophecies of natural disasters—destructive weather, stars and burning mountains falling from heaven, the sun and moon dimmed in the sky—are actually the consequences of angelic beings who are sent to earth to execute God’s judgment on an unrepentant world.
In fact, we suggest that all seven of the trumpet judgments may refer to both asteroids and accompanying supernatural entities. We’ll summarize them briefly:
The first trumpet (Revelation 8:7). Hail and fire follow the sounding of the first trumpet, echoing the plague against Egypt described in Exodus 9:22–25. What Moses would have known, and so we assume John would have been aware of this as well, is that “hail” and “fire” were known deities in the ancient world that are specifically described as angelic beings by the psalmist Asaph:
He gave over their cattle to the hail
and their flocks to thunderbolts.
He let loose on them his burning anger,
wrath, indignation, and distress,
a company of destroying angels. (Psalm 78:48–49; emphasis added)
“Hail” was Barad, a god known from the northern Syrian city of Ebla as much as a thousand years before the Exodus whose names roughly translates as “(big) Chill.”[xi] The Hebrew word translated as “thunderbolts” is even more interesting: reshephim is derived from the name of a well-known Near Eastern deity, Resheph, who has had a long and prominent career among pagan pantheons.
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Resheph was a plague-god worshiped in western Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt at least as early as the middle of the third millennium BC. He was depicted as an archer who could spread disease with his arrows, which may explain the occasional links between Resheph and lightning in the Old Testament.[xii] (Or, this could be another descriptor for angels who appear as “burning ones.”) The use of the plural form of his name suggests that reshephim was a class of supernatural being, perhaps a type of warrior angel. This concept was apparently known to the pagan neighbors of ancient Israel; in Sidon, a city on the Phoenician coast, an inscription from the fifth century BC mentions that an entire quarter of the town was named “land of the Reshephs.”[xiii] So, it appears that the reshephim were sent out with Barad as a “company of destroying angels,” wielding lightning and hail to execute God’s judgment on Egypt. And it will happen again on a global scale when the first trumpet sounds.
The second trumpet (Revelation 8:8–9). A “great mountain, burning with fire,” is thrown into the sea, destroying a third of the ships and a third of the life in the sea. As you might guess from the above, this may well be a reference to a powerful angel connected to a meteorite or asteroid. More evidence for this theory comes from a vision given to the prophet Zechariah:
Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!” (Zechariah 4:6–7; emphasis added)
Zechariah’s vision occurred around 520 BC.[xiv] At that point in history, the “Great Mountain” Enlil had been eclipsed by Marduk in the Mesopotamian pantheon because of the emergence of the Babylonian kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar. However, Enlil had been king of the gods for at least two thousand years, and he continued to be worshiped into the Christian era by the Romans and Phoenicians as Saturn and Baal-Hammon. (Note that the great winter festival at Rome was Saturnalia, not Jupiteralia, even though Jupiter was king of the Roman pantheon.)
Contrary to many Bible commentaries that interpret Zechariah’s vision as a symbol of overcoming great obstacles, we believe it was a message directed at an ancient entity who led the rebellion of the Watchers at Mount Hermon.
Now, the burning mountain of the second trumpet judgment is probably not the same entity. Peter and Jude wrote that the rebellious angels of Genesis 6 are chained in darkness until the judgment.[xv] Zechariah’s vision simply adds weight to the testimony of Enoch, who saw angels as “burning mountains” in the netherworld, and the references to the “stones of fire” on the mountain of God, Eden, in Ezekiel 28.
Whoever it is, the burning mountain of Revelation 8:8-9 is joined to a destroying angel of great power, and he will bring unprecedented destruction to those on the sea and in it.
The third trumpet (Revelation 8:10–11). Not much needs to be said here since Wormwood is the focus of our study. Suffice it to say that while the “great star” named Wormwood may be a physical object from space, the evidence is just as strong that this may be carrying another supernatural entity tasked with carrying out God’s judgment—perhaps by manipulating the asteroid that intersects earth’s orbit on April 13, 2029.
Another star from heaven arrives when the fifth trumpet sounds, and that star is unquestionably an angel. Wormwood may be one as well.
The fourth trumpet (Revelation 8:12). A third of the sun, moon, and stars is “struck,” or “smitten,” so that “a third of their light might be darkened.” Of all of the seven trumpet judgments, this one is least obviously connected to the angelic realm. Still, there is scriptural evidence to support the idea.
Early in Israel’s history, God gave Moses this warning:
Beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.
But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. (Deuteronomy 4:19–20)
The sun, moon, and stars have been worshiped as deities for millennia. It was common practice among Israel’s pagan neighbors. God warned the Israelites not to fall into that deception. In our modern world, we might assume that God’s warning was because those lights in the sky were imaginary gods, but God’s message to Moses was to avoid the entities worshiped as the sun, moon, and stars because they had been allotted to the nations as their gods.
Furthermore, if the entities who masqueraded as the gods of the sun, moon, and stars were imaginary, then what do we make of this prophecy from Isaiah?
On that day the Lord will punish
the host of heaven, in heaven,
and the kings of the earth, on the earth.
They will be gathered together
as prisoners in a pit;
they will be shut up in a prison,
and after many days they will be punished.
Then the moon will be confounded
and the sun ashamed,
for the Lord of hosts reigns
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
and his glory will be before his elders. (Isaiah 24:21–23)
It’s hard to imagine how the sun, moon, and stars could literally be “confounded,” “ashamed,” and held like “prisoners in a pit,” much less punished. No, this prophecy is about the entities who inspired and accepted worship by presenting themselves to the ancient world as the gods of the sun, moon, and stars. Remember, in Revelation 12:4, Satan brings a third of the “stars of heaven” with him when he descends to Earth. It is generally agreed by Bible scholars that these stars are angels. If they are not the same third that is prophesied in Revelation 8:12, the verses at least support the idea that John’s fourth trumpet vision was about the spirit realm and not an astronomical calamity.
The fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:1–11). This is one of the more intriguing sections of the Book of Revelation. “A star fallen from heaven” unlocks the abyss and lets out a horde of locust-like creatures who are given five months to torment those who are not sealed by God. Why five months? It’s not a coincidence; it bookends the one hundred fifty days (five thirty-day months on the lunar calendar) that Noah and his family were aboard the ark before it came to rest in the mountains of Ararat.[xvi]
In our view, this confirms that the terrifying locust-things that swarm out of the abyss are not symbols that represent man-made objects, such as modern attack helicopters, but supernatural beings—specifically, the Watchers of Genesis 6 (i.e., the Titans of Greek myth), who were powerless to save their children, the gigantic Nephilim, as they were destroyed during the five months that the Flood covered the earth. The five months the Watchers are allotted to torment humanity during the end times is a bit of payback on the children of men—but only those without the seal of God on their foreheads.
An in-depth study of this section is beyond the scope of this chapter and this book, but it’s safe to say that the star that falls from heaven, the locusts, and Abaddon/Apollyon, the king over those in the abyss, are supernatural beings.
The sixth trumpet (Revelation 9:13–21). After blowing his trumpet, the sixth angel is commanded to release the four angels bound in the Euphrates, who in turn lead an army of two hundred million that kills a third of humanity. Again, a deep study of this section is beyond the scope of this book; whether the horsemen of the prophecy are literal cavalry, John’s best effort to describe modern weapons, or angelic warriors is immaterial here. The point is that this trumpet, like the previous five, summons supernatural agents to carry out God’s will.
The seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15). This triggers a series of events that culminates in the arrival of Antichrist, the Beast who emerges from the sea in Revelation 13:1. While Christian theologians have speculated on the identity of this character for nearly two thousand years, we’re still searching for a consensus candidate. Many in the first-century church believed he was Nero, not just because he’d been an evil ruler who had persecuted the church, but because of a popular rumor that the emperor had not actually died in 68 AD. The Nero Redivivus legend held that the disgraced ruler had staged his death and fled east to Rome’s enemy, Parthia, from which he would lead a mighty army to reclaim his throne. As strange as it sounds today, this belief persisted into the fifth century![xvii]
Focusing on a human candidate misses the point. John’s description of a seven-headed monster emerging from the sea, which often represents the abyss and/or chaos in the Bible, is a symbol that would have been familiar to nearly any religious person in the ancient world, regardless of their belief. Stories of monsters or dragons from the sea, some with seven heads, were common in the ancient Near East, and they have been documented as far back as the middle of the third millennium BC. (And, we should note, Apophis was one of the chaos monsters of the ancient world.) A thorough study of this topic is, again, beyond the scope of this chapter and book, but it does illustrate that all seven of the trumpet judgments are connected to supernatural actors.
Discerning the future requires understanding the past. Studies of end-times prophecy often impose our modern worldview onto texts that were written between two and three thousand years ago, which yields interpretations that would have been meaningless to those who lived in the days of the prophets.
The timing of the arrival of asteroid Apophis makes it a strong candidate to fulfill the Wormwood prophecy. April 13, 2029, coincides with the date on the Hebrew calendar that marks the anniversary of the destruction of Jericho, the Israelites’ first conquest as they entered the Promised Land. Three and a half years earlier, October 13, 2025, is Tishri 21, the final day of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, the celebration of God’s victory over the rebellious gods of the nations. A few days earlier, 17 Tishri, is the anniversary of the fall of Babylon, which foreshadows the destruction of Mystery Babylon, the end-times church of Antichrist, during the seven-year period commonly called the Great Tribulation.
Many of the prophecies in Revelation, the seven trumpet judgments in particular, involve the active participation of supernatural beings—angels, devils, demons, and things that don’t easily fit into any categories that we’ve been taught in church. Yet, the evidence is there, and these things were well known to the prophets and apostles. So, it is possible that the second and third trumpets—the “burning mountain” and the great star “blazing like a torch” that bring destruction to the waters of the world—are judgments carried out by powerful angels traveling with or upon calamities that are set to fall from the sky.
Are we correct that the asteroid of Revelation 8 will impact the earth in 2029? Will a pre-Tribulation Rapture occur 3.5 years earlier, during the prophetic Feast of Tabernacles? Or a few days earlier, during the prophetic Feast of Trumpets (placing the Church at the arriage supper of the Lamb in heaven for the real Feast of Trumpets gathering around the “House” of God, as was mirrored in the Old Testament?) Time will tell. If nothing else, our appointment with Apophis is an urgent reminder that we, the Church, must get busy fulfilling our Lord’s command to make disciples of all nations. Time is growing short.
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[i] Revelation 8:10–11.
[ii] Stone, Adam, “Enlil/Ellil (god).” Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses (ORACC and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2016), http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/listofdeities/enlil/, retrieved 7/6/20.
[iii] Brian B. Schmidt, Israel’s Beneficent Dead: Ancestor Cult and Necromancy in Ancient Israelite Religion and Tradition (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1996) 36.
[iv] 2 Peter 2:4.
[v] Homer, The Iliad with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in two volumes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1924). http://data.perseus.org/citations/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0012.tlg001.perseus-eng1:8.1-8.40, retrieved 7/8/20.
[vi] Gilbert, Last Clash of the Titans, 84–91 and 118–120.
[vii] George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch: The Hermeneia Translation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012) 39.
[viii] 1 Enoch 21:1–5, in Nickelsburg, op.cit., 41.
[ix] Strong’s Hebrew Concordance H8313, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H8313&t=KJV, retrieved 7/7/20.
[x] Ezekiel 1:7, 13.
[xi] Xella, Paolo, “Barad.” In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible 2nd extensively rev. ed. (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999) 160.
[xii] Xella, Paolo, “Resheph.” In K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible 2nd extensively rev. ed. (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999) 701.
[xiv] Zechariah 1:1 dates the vision to “the eighth month, in the second year of Darius,” who ruled Persia 522–486 BC.
[xv] 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.
[xvi] Genesis 8:4.
[xvii] Augustine of Hippo, City of God XX.19.3, https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102.iv.XX.19.html#iv.XX.19-p6, retrieved 7/9/20.