There are many accounts of famines in the bible. The most well-known one was the famine in Egypt, which was recorded for us in the book of Genesis. Famines have been with us all throughout recorded history and millions of people have died because of them. For example, since 800 AD, there have been 31 famines, each of which have claimed a million or more lives. China suffered the loss of 45 million people to starvation during the famines of the 1800s.
You might say that famines are nothing new on the face of the earth, and you’d be right. But every famine that’s ever come before will not even come close to the severity of the ones that will occur during the seven-year tribulation.
The Third Seal Judgment announces famine
The third seal introduces the rider on the black horse, who brings famine upon the earth.
When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
The color black represents famine (Lamentations 5:10 KJV) and the pair of scales that the rider of the black horse holds represent the rationing that will result from famine.
The famines of the last days will cost the inhabitants of earth dearly, just to survive. The Roman denarius was a silver coin that was the amount of money an average worker made in a day. A quart of wheat provides just enough nutrition and calories for one person to survive for one day. So, if a worker chooses to buy wheat, he will have to work all day long just to make enough money to feed himself. He won’t have money left over for anything else. If he chooses to buy three quarts of barley with his day’s wages, he can feed his family as well. But barley has a much lower nutritional value than wheat, so neither the worker or his family will be getting the nutrition they need to stay healthy.
But not everyone will be on the edge of starvation during the tribulation. There will be merchants and kings who prosper while doing commerce with Babylon the Great, which will be the capitol of the Antichrist’s one world government. They will prosper, that is, until Babylon is utterly destroyed (Revelation 18:8).
Right on the heels of the black horse comes the fourth seal judgment that kills one fourth of mankind (Revelation 6:7-8). At today’s population, that would well exceed a billion people. This judgment will involve many things that bring death, including more famine. The outpouring of the fourth seal judgment will be an obvious indication that the earth is experiencing the great tribulation, which is the final 3 ½ years before Christ returns to rule the earth.
How God will bring famine
Famine is a natural aftermath of the wars that will occur in the last days but the famines of the tribulation period will also be caused by several individual judgments from God. The trumpet judgments bring an outpouring of famine and death but as you will see later, it gets even more severe as the final judgments, called the bowl judgments are poured out upon the earth.
The trumpet judgments
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
Can you imagine the devastation that will be caused to the food supply when a third of the earth is burned up? The hail and fire mixed with blood might indicate that this catastrophe is due to volcanic eruptions that are triggered by earthquakes. The steam and water that would be spewed into the sky could easily cause the hail and the gases and dust that would be thrown into the air could cause the hail to appear to be blood red.
Whatever it is that causes a third of the earth to be burned up, it will be a disaster of epic proportions that no one can miss. But God is not finished pouring out His wrath.
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
This huge mountain is most likely a meteor which is set ablaze as it enters the earth’s atmosphere. A meteor of this size that hits the sea would cause a tidal wave like mankind has never seen and will bring swift destruction to both ships and sea life. We don’t know if the sea turning to blood will be actual blood or a red tide. What we can know for sure is that losing a third of the worlds sea life and the worlds ships will be devastating to the worlds food supply.
This judgment will certainly affect the nations the most who depend on the sea for the bulk of their food. Also, the loss of a third of the worlds ships will have a major impact on many countries who import much of their food from other places around the globe.
This loss of shipping will also slow down the movement of oil around the globe which is vital for heating our homes, running farming machinery, and getting to and from work. Some have said that the U.S. economy runs on cheap oil. This will have a huge impact on the economies every country who depend on imported oil.
The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water— the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
The third trumpet judgment is similar to the second trumpet except that the cause of the devastation is referred to as “a great star that’s blazing like a torch”. This is a clue that it’s probably referring to a comet. This comet apparently disintegrates as it enters the earth’s atmosphere because it falls on one third of the waters. These waters don’t refer to the sea, like the previous judgment, but rather it refers to fresh water such as rivers, and streams.
Revelation 8:11 is the only verse in the New Testament where Wormwood is mentioned. Wormwood, which is a bitter, poisonous desert plant that causes drunkenness and eventual death, is used seven times in the Old Testament to represent sorrow and bitter judgment.
Because this star, called Wormwood, poisons a third of the fresh water worldwide, many people will die from drinking it. I can only imagine what affect this poisonous water will have on crops and there’s no doubt that many animals and livestock that drink this bitter water will also die, adding to the severity of the famine.
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.
With the fourth trumpet judgment, God supernaturally reduces the amount of celestial light by one third. This could mean that the sun won’t shine for a third of the day and the moon and stars won’t shine for a third of the night or it could mean that the intensity of the light coming from these celestial bodies will be reduced throughout the whole day and night by one third. Whichever it is, this will be a sign from God that the world cannot miss because this has never happened before.
Those who know prophecy, will know that this judgment came from God because He warned us beforehand that it would happen, so that when it does happen those who witness it might believe that God is who He has always claimed to be saved.
You might be wondering what this judgment has to do with famine.
The loss of solar heat will suddenly cause severe but temporary changes in the weather, which will harm crops and probably damage dwellings as well. I’m not a farmer, but it seems logical that the reduced sunlight will also affect the optimal growth cycles of vegetation, causing loss of crops.
As you have seen, the trumpet judgments will be severe and will cause much death. But the worst is yet to come.
The bowl judgments
God has been patient in His desire for people to repent and turn to Him, which is why He increases the frequency and intensity of the judgments. At this point, though, as it’s nearing the day of the Lord’s return, He pours out the bowl judgments to complete His wrath against those who’ve had numerous opportunities to repent but still refuse to turn from their evil ways.
The bowl judgments will be vastly more severe than anything that has come upon the earth before. The good news is that once God has finished pouring out these final judgments, God’s wrath will finally be complete.
Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.
This is similar to the second trumpet judgment that killed a third of the sea life, except that this one will kill everything that lives in the sea. There will be no more Maine Lobster, clam chowder, or fish and chips.
As two thirds of the earth is covered by ocean and sea, this judgment will be a tremendous catastrophe that has affects for the whole world. If you’re a fisherman, you’ll be out of work and if you were depending on any kind of food from the sea, you’ll be out of luck.
The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.
Between the third trumpet judgment poisoning a third of the waters and the two witnesses calling for drought whenever they want, the worlds fresh water will already be in short supply. The rivers and springs of water turning to blood will bring even greater thirst to earth’s inhabitants. Not to mention that they won’t have adequate fresh water to grow crops or to keep livestock from dying of thirst.
Revelation 16:5-6 tells us that the reason for the severity of this judgment is because “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets”.
Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.
In the fourth bowl judgment, the sun becomes a deadly killer. With little fresh water to drink, mankind will suffer severe thirst and agony as they are being scorched by extreme heat from the sun. But instead of repenting, they will blaspheme God.
In addition to the sun scorching men with extreme heat and fire, this judgment will have other devastating effects. Consider for a moment what effect this kind of heat will have on any plants and animals that remain.
On top of that, the extreme heat will cause dramatic climate change. We can expect that the melting of the polar icecaps will dramatically increase, which could cause the oceans to rise above the level of the sea ports, making it difficult to distribute whatever food and fresh water remain.
Food for thought
Jesus gave us these signs so that when we see these things happening, we would wake from our spiritual slumber and be saved. Better still is to turn your life over to Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life before you miss the rapture of the church and have to endure these judgments.
- WikiPedia: List of famines
- Book: Because the time is near, by John Macarthur
- Book: The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck
- Book: The MacArthur Bible Commentary