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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


A Star Falls From Heaven


As we hear the sound of the third trumpet we reflect on the happenings under the third seal and the third letter to the churches of Asia, the church at Pergamos.

The third seal revealed a church given over to apostasy. In this we learn the why behind the post-Nicene era of 311 a.d. to 600 a.d. and warn ourselves from falling into the same pitfall. The horse is now black, which is indicative that it is no longer the church built by Jesus, it has become the total opposite of its original white purity. This does not mean that the church Jesus built ceased to exist; Jesus said the gates of hell cannot prevail against His church. While there was wholesale apostasy among the visible church-at-large, there were churches that resisted the apostasy, but these were now classified as heretics and were persecuted. The rider, the ministry of the apostate church, carries scales in his hand through which it measures out what it wants the people to know or believe about the gospels and epistles of the New Testament. We see here the effects of spiritual starvation. The star depicted in this seal had to come up with an alternative to gospel salvation that would seem to produce salvation and hold people in the arms of the now apostate church. The leadership of the church is starving the people to spiritual death.

The church at Pergamos was infested with those that held to the doctrines of Balaam and the Nicolaitans. The Nicolaitans were immoral people that welcomed sexual promiscuity as acts of worship. You will recall that Balaam was the false prophet that persuaded the Israelites to adopt many of the immoral ceremonies of the heathen tribes around them. In this we see how the leadership of the now fallen visible church-at-large over time diverted its people from the word of God into religious forms that had nothing to do with the intent of the gospel. This is a form of spiritual fornication. The professed bride of Christ is giving herself to another Christ, which is not the true Christ, the Savior and head of the church.

As the third trumpet sounds we see a great star falling from heaven burning like a torch. The star represents the ministry of the church. As literal stars give light in the darkness and they are aids to navigation, ministers are a means by which Jesus gives spiritual light to His church and guides His people in living holy lives. While the ministry had successfully defeated the heresies that had attacked the teachings of the church they now are intoxicated with the power they held over the teaching of the church. Blinded by that power the ministry became secular with a religious cloak and dragged the visible church down with them as they fell from their exalted position as the ministers of Christ. Without genuine spiritual life the leadership of the visible church-at-large had to invent a substitute for real salvation. In doing so, they turned on those that held to the true gospel branding them as heretics and persecuting them as the church had been persecuted by Rome.


The Light of the Torch Went Out


Until this time the church of God was a persecuted band of believers bound together in the fellowship of the gospel of Jesus Christ and salvation from sin. In 311 a.d. the Edict of Toleration was enacted in the Roman Empire, which effectively ended the government sponsored persecution of the Christian church. Because of this, “its relation to the temporal power, and its social and political position and import, undergo an entire and permanent change.”[1] This was the birth of the state-church system. Philip Shaff observes that in this age,


Formerly simplicity and purity of morals were the great ornament of the Christians over against the prevailing corruption; now it could be justly observed that, as the whole world had crowed into the church, it had let in also all the vices of the world.[2]


In defeating the heretics of the previous two centuries, the church established the ecumenical creeds as the standard of the Christian faith. While these creeds are essentially biblically sound as far as the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, they are not the practical guides to living faith the church needs. Teaching Scripture, particularly the gospels and the epistles of the New Testament, is essential to spiritual life and growth and without these there was a general lack of conversion among converts to the church. The balances in the hands of the ministry that previously doled out diminishing portions of the gospels and epistles turned into a burning torch like a meteor that flashes in the dark sky and burns up as it crashes into the earth. The leadership of the church set aside the Scripture in favor of ceremony and ritual, particularly, the sacrament of the Eucharist. Because of this the people of the church were turned into spectators and not disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

While we tend to focus mostly on the ancient Roman church when interpreting the Revelation, this also was seen in the Greek church which makes this a universal phenomenon in the church-at-large. Shaff writes:


The Catholic church, both Greek and Latin, sees in the Eucharist not only a sacramentum, in which God communicates a grace to believers, but at the same time, and in fact mainly, a sacrificium, in which believers really offer to God that which is represented by the sensible elements. . . . According to this doctrine the Eucharist is an unbloody repetition of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by the priesthood for the salvation of the living and the dead; so that the body of Christ is truly and literally offered every day and every hour, and upon innumerable altars at the same time.[3]


The light of the torch went out and along with it the great truth of the atonement in Christ was lost to sight. Christ died once and only once for sin and His one death atones for the sin of all people. This is clearly taught in these texts of the New Testament:

Romans 6:10, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” In fact, the Apostle writes in verse 9, “Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.” To teach that the continual killing of Christ is necessary for the salvation of the living and the dead is blasphemy.

Hebrews 7:25, 27, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. . . . who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” The atonement in Christ saves people to the uttermost (entirely). Because of this there is no need for daily, continual, sacrificing of Christ for sin as He did this once for all when He offered up Himself. Continuing to sacrifice Christ is senseless, impossible, and blasphemous.

Hebrews 9:12, “with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” The death of Christ was done only once for all; there can be no repetition of His sacrifice. His death obtained eternal redemption; to keep crucifying Jesus for the sins of the living and dead is absurd and implies that His one-time sacrifice was not sufficient to redeem the human race.

And finally, Hebrews 10:10, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The verb is in the past perfect tense. The one sacrifice of Christ in the past is effective from that time until now and perpetually into the future. Christ died once, in 33 a.d., for all people. Furthermore, the atonement sanctifies or makes holy people who put their faith in the blood of Christ.

Christ offered Himself in the atonement, but in the celebration of the mass, a priest crucifies Christ again. The bread and wine are placed on the altar to be consecrated by the priest. As he utters the words hoc est corpus meum, the elements miraculously become the actual body and blood of Christ—not mere representations of His body and blood. Communicants are said to eat the real flesh of Christ and receive some degree of grace. Whatever faith they may have, their faith is only in a piece of bread that cannot possibly take away their sins.




The truth of 1 John 1:7 “The blood of Jesus Christ . . . cleanses us from all sin” was denied to the visible-church-at and the sweetness of redemption was lost and replaced with the bitterness of continuing sin.

The name of the fallen star is Wormwood, which is descriptive of the bitter and painful effects of the actual plant. Wormwood is a plant called artemisia absinthium. It is used in medicines and some alcoholic beverages, Vermouth being one. It is also used in making a drink called Absinthe. It contains the chemical thujone which acts on the nervous system and can cause seizures and other adverse effects.

The star fell on the waters; what waters? We met these waters in Revelation 7:17, “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The waters are the redeemed that follow the Lamb of God and have experienced the joy of sins forgiven.

As the truth of the atonement was taken out of the church people were left in the bitterness of their sins with nothing more than a ceremonial eating of Jesus. Many men died from the water because it was made bitter. Taking away the actual cleansing from sin and substituting a ceremony and an unrealized hope of salvation makes no real spiritual and moral change in a person’s life. They remain in the bitterness of sin clothed only with a cloak of religion.




What is the WHY in the third trumpet? The ministry must uphold the atonement in Christ at all cost. We have been called to “Go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). While there are doctrines that must be taught, we must focus on the atonement in Christ and the real cleansing from all sin in His blood. We are then to teach them to observe all things that He has commanded us. (Matthew 28:18)

The WHY is that the ministry lost sight of the atonement and plunged the visible church-at-large into apostasy. While there are many things in the New Testament that must be taught, we must teach it all within the context of the atonement and not just teach doctrine for the sake of teaching doctrine.

And furthermore, let us not substitute ritual for a real experience with God. Programs, activities, music and other things can add to the worship experience of people but they musts never become the worship experience. The church Jesus built must always be Christ centered.


[1] Schaff, Philip,  The History of the Christian Church, Volume III,  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, MI,  1979 reprint,  p. 4.

[2] Ibid, p. 73.

[3] Ibid, pp. 503 & 504.