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 NKJV)
I would like to offer my understanding of this particular verse, and perhaps start a discussion.
First, the third angel is sounding a trumpet, let’s not forget that. What’s the Star? Well, the Star is Wormwood.
Wormwood is used in the Old Testament as a plant of bitterness.
In Deuteronomy 29.18, the people that have fallen away from Israel to worship other gods are considered as a root of bitterness, or Wormwood. The author of Proverbs 5.4 compares the fruit of the immoral woman has that of wormwood. The prophet Amos uses wormwood to showcase the wrath of God in taking the kingdom of Israel.
But it is Jeremiah were we find the use of wormwood that John mimics:
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among the Gentiles, whom neither they nor their fathers have known. And I will send a sword after them until I have consumed them.” (Jeremiah 9:15-16 NKJV)
“Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, And make them drink the water of gall; For from the prophets of Jerusalem Profaneness has gone out into all the land.”‘ (Jeremiah 23:15 NKJV)
He has filled me with bitterness, He has made me drink wormwood. He has also broken my teeth with gravel, And covered me with ashes. You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity. And I said, “My strength and my hope Have perished from the LORD.” Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall. (Lamentations 3:15-19 NKJV)
Wormwood was given to Israel to separate her from God, those that had sinned and caused idolatry in the land. What does that say about John’s use of the word.
As a side note, some scholars of the previous centuries understood this fallen star to be Arius.
I believe that Wormwood is the judgment on the house of God, the Church:
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17 NKJV)
In my own understanding, I see the rivers and the fountains of water as the Church (John 4.14). Barnes, commenting on the rivers and fountains of water, writes,
if it be understood as having a more metaphorical sense, to regard it as affecting those things which resemble rivers and fountains – the sources of influence; the morals, the religion of a people, the institutions of a country, which are often so appropriately compared with running fountains or flowing streams.
We know from Christ that the Church is made up of both wheat (real) and tares (attached, false) saints. The Lord promised us that at sometime in the future, they would be separated.
Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn. (Matthew 13:30 NKJV)
I believe that whatever, or whomever, the fallen star is, it brings wormwood to the Church, to root out the wheat and the tares.