The Way It Happened

Revelation 8:8, The Eruption of Vesuvius

The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon 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. 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.

//Revelation describes several cataclysmic events. Most had already happened by the time John wrote his apocalypse—for example, these verses surely describe the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the first century. Luckily, or perhaps not a coincidence, much of the top half of the mountain blew southwest into the sea, but the resulting mass of dead and dying marine life from the poisoned coastal waters would not easily fade from one’s memory.

Pliny the Younger wrote: The sea was sucked away and forced back by an earthquake; at any rate, it receded from the shore so that quantities of sea creatures were left stranded on dry sand.  And the waters were violently disturbed.  Of his uncle’s rescue mission with warships, he wrote: By now, ash was falling on the ships, hotter and thicker the closer they approached; then pumice and blackened stones, burnt and fractured by the fire.  He also described a cloud rushing down the flanks of the mountain and blanketing everything around it, including the surrounding sea.  Known today as a pyroclastic flow, this cloud of superheated gas, ash, and rock erupts from a volcano.  Ash from the eruption reached Africa, Syria, and Egypt, causing pestilence.

Nature’s hiccup completely devastated three hundred square kilometers around Vesuvius, the death toll unknown.  Archaeologists uncovered the remains of 1,150 people in Pompeii and 350 in Herculaneum, out of a total estimated population in the two cities of 15,000 to 30,000.  In Herculaneum, death arrived so suddenly by heat and asphyxiation (it all happened in a fraction of a second) that many bodies there froze in agonized contortions, everything buried so deep in ash that the city’s location became a mystery, a first-century Atlantis swallowed by the earth, to be found later only by a chance discovery in the early eighteenth century!

If you’d like to learn more about the true-life events behind the book of Revelation, please check out my book: Revelation: The Way It Happened

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