Rev. 8:7. “The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.”
Seeing that the trumpets symbolically record the destruction of the wicked after their rejection of God’s messages to them, and that the number “seven,” denoting completeness, embraces the entire period of probationary time and on to the second coming of Christ, the sounding of the first trumpet must therefore be sought as far back in history as the first destruction of a wicked multitude, resulting from their rejection of God’s message to them. And the flood being the first such destruction, then obviously the first trumpet, as it came in review before the judgment, reveals Noah’s preaching, his purpose in building the ark, and God’s reason for flooding the old world.
Bringing up reason, now, as mouthpiece for the symbolism, that it might speak for itself, it tells us that the “hail and fire mingled with blood” and “cast upon the earth,” denote something which necessarily originated outside the earth itself. Otherwise it could not be said that “they were cast upon the earth.” The three elements (the hail, the fire, and the blood), moreover, represent something which is comprised of three parts, and which not being limited to any particular part or parts of “the earth,” were therefore “cast” earth wide.
Going on now to understand the symbolism as it thus basically defines itself, the student will see as he proceeds that its subject not only becomes clearer and clearer, one truth dovetailing with another, and all reinforcing the whole, but also that it holds a stirring present truth lesson. Seeing this, he will know that heaven’s appointed time for the unfolding of the trumpets has come, bringing the momentous truth set forth herein.
Then as he proceeds, in the light of this realization, to inquire into the significance of the “fire” (taking it first because of its being the commonest of the three elements involved), he will be guided by the three-fold fact that God’s presence in the “bush” was manifested to Moses by a flame of fire (Ex. 3:2; 19:18); that the Lord likens His Word to a fire (Jer. 23:29), and that on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost appeared as “tongues like as of fire.” Acts 2:3.
In the light of these three occurrences, the casting of fire upon the earth is seen to be symbolical of the descending of the Holy Ghost with the words of Truth, in which are the Father and the Son, even as the Father is in the Son (John 14:9). Thus through the Spirit, Whose ubiquitous influence cannot be circumscribed, our Lord “went and preached” to the inhabitants before the flood came. Through Him, too, our Lord was “quickened.” 1 Pet. 3 :18, 19, 20.
Next, as the Word declares that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11), “the blood” is seen therefore to be symbolical of mortal life.
And the simple question which God puts to Job “hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble?” (Job 38:22, 23), reveals that the “hail” is symbolical of destruction.
And hail’s being frozen water denotes a destruction by water — the flood, which could not be symbolized by water in its liquid form, because fluid water symbolically stands for “life,” or “people.” (See John 4:14 and Revelation 17:15.) Hail, therefore, is the only element that can perfectly symbolize a destruction by water.
So by these three elements (hail, fire, and blood) is figuratively described the message which Noah preached: namely, the destruction by water (hail); the building of the ark to preserve mortal life (blood); and the power of the Spirit of Truth (fire), by which the message was brought and proclaimed. To state the facts in other words, the Spirit of truth (fire) in Noah’s message provided the ark to preserve the lives (blood) of all who heard His voice and entered therein. To all, though, who did not accept His voice and enter in, the message brought destruction by the flood (hail).
When Noah knew that his God-given work was finished because the wicked-multitude had “slighted, spoken against, ridiculed, and rejected” his message, he and his family moved into the ark. Then the flood came, and all who had not sought the ark’s shelter were carried away by the raging waters.
Thus it is that the victims of the flood are symbolized by the third part of the “trees” and by the “green grass” (Rev. 8:7) which were burned (doomed by the power of the Spirit against Whom they sinned), and which distinguish two classes of people.
But why “burnt” instead of “drowned”? Let us not forget that we are herein studying truth by means of symbols. The act of destruction denoted by the literal acceptation of the word “drowned,” would be actual instead of symbolical, and would thus twist the key of interpretation: for if every term is not symbolical, how shall we differentiate those which are from those which are not? And how shall we know by which to define the truth? The word “drowned” would not symbolically signify destroyed, but rather immersed in life — submerged among great masses of people (Rev. 17:15).
And “fire” being symbolical of the Spirit of Truth, it follows therefore that those who sinned against Him in rejecting Noah’s message, were figuratively “burnt,” and that therefore the wicked suffered His vengeance (“fire”) for sinning against Him.
To illustrate: should one commit murder and be convicted by a law which demands capital punishment, then his life would be in forfeit to an instrument of death. But is the crime or the implement of execution the cause of his death? — The crime, of course; for if the accused is found guiltless, the law cannot impose the penalty.
Just so with the antediluvians: they did not perish because the flood came, for any who would, could have gone into the ark. Indeed, had all repented, they would have thereby given God cause even to withhold the flood. But they committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, rejected Noah’s message, refused to get into the ark — a sin which brought upon them the penalty of divine law (the flood).
That the “green grass” and the “trees” are symbolical of two classes of living beings, is quickly seen from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in which he saw himself likened to a “tree,” and the common people of his kingdom, to the “tender grass of the field.” Dan. 4:10, 14, 15, 20, 22; Isa. 40:6, 7. And Jesus, speaking of men in responsible positions, said that “every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Matt. 3:10. Plainly, therefore, the common people destroyed by the flood, were symbolized by the “green grass,” and their leaders, by a third part of the “trees.” “And every living substance,” reads the record, “was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.” Gen. 7:23.
Simply because a third part’s being burned gives the inference that two parts were left, must we therefore believe that twice as many were spared as were lost? And inasmuch as there were just eight saved, shall we then conclude that only four souls (trees) were lost?
Such conclusions are reached only by setting aside the rule of interpretation. Ever remember that we are studying prophetic events through symbols. Let not the mind be diverted from a symbolical to a literal enumeration of those who perished and of those who lived.
Finding explication in the “third part of the stars of heaven” (Rev. 12:4), — the wicked angels whom Satan drew away with him, — “the third part of trees” is seen to denote the wicked rulers of the antediluvian world. The two parts of the stars, or angels, remaining in heaven were the righteous ones. Correspondingly, the two parts of the “trees” which were not burned are symbolical of the righteous who survived the flood. Had Inspiration stated that two thirds were burnt and a third left, instead of the converse, the statement would have been symbolically incorrect because a figurative “third” in the trumpets always means the wicked irrespective of number.
Why were all the people who were in the ark symbolized by trees? Why not by grass? — Because grass as compared with trees lacks the fitting characteristics, such as stature, sturdiness, stability, and long life. Grass would not, accordingly, either logically or scripturally symbolize the inmates of the ark as the progenitors of all post-diluvian nations.
Thus, as in one short verse of Scripture the whole story of the flood is told, there is seen in the symbolism of the first trumpet, not only a marvelous simplicity and accuracy in telling the past but also a great economy of time and of writing material, the latter being a commodity which was then at a great premium. And this same supreme wisdom runs throughout, continuing with SECOND TRUMPET.