The first verse of Revelation and the first verse of chapter four tell us that we are being shown “the things” that must soon take place. (NIV translates it “what must take place.”) The idea is that we are being shown events that are to take place during a definite time-span in which God’s wrath is poured out.
One of those events (Revelation 8:8) is a mountain-like object cast into the sea.
Strangely, Hendriksen in More than Conquerors chooses to see this not as an event, but as a symbol. I do not think he is reading Revelation on its own terms, for when John gives us a symbol, he either declares it is a sign, or explains his image. Thus the woman in the sun (Chapter 12) is called a sign and is based on earlier biblical imagery, but the beast is explained for us.
Suppose we play along with Hendriksen and take the mountain-like object of Revelation 8:8 as a symbol. The question becomes, who gets to determine what this newly-minted symbol means? Out of thin air Hendriksen plucks the idea that it refers to every catastrophe that happens at sea during the church age.
If the mountain-like object really were a symbol, not an event, it seems we should look for a more biblical interpretation.
First, let us ask what the sea symbolizes. Revelation 13:1 shows a beast, representing an earthly power, coming out of the sea. This is like Daniel 7:3 in which the earlier prophet also saw beasts that represented earthly kingdoms come out of the sea. Isaiah likens the people and nations to a raging sea (Isaiah 17:12). Revelation 17:15 specifically tells us that the waters on which the great prostitute sat represented people and nations. Therefore, if Revelation 8:8 is a symbol, not an event, it would most likely refer to people and nations not to an actual watery sea.
What then could the mountain-like object represent? In Scripture, mountains commonly refer to places of spiritual encounter or places of exaltation. Jesus was transfigured on a mountain. The Israelites worshiped on high places. The law was given Moses on a mountain. In Revelation 13, the 144,000 sealed Israelites are gathered to Jesus on Mount Zion; and in Revelation 21:10, John is taken to a high mountain where he is shown the Holy City coming down from heaven.
Since this object cast into the sea is “like a mountain,” not actually a mountain, as a symbol it would refer to false worship as opposed to true. We know from Scripture (e.g. Psalm 9:16) that people are destroyed by the very things they trust in. So the fake mountain that is cast blazing into the sea could be seen to be symbolic of people destroyed by the false things they worship during the blaze of God’s wrath. This interpretation has at least as much merit as Hendriksen’s.
However, I would read Revelation 8:8 in its most natural sense. It quite simply refers to an asteroid (or similar object) hitting the earth. Such an interpretation avoids all whimsical imaginings and restores Revelation 8:8 to its place as a likely and significant element in a specific sequence of wrath poured out by God during a specific period of judgment. As such it is comparable to the Noahic flood or to the more localized overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. Both were definite outpourings of God’s wrath at specific moments of history using natural elements. There is no good reason to read the trumpets and bowls of wrath in any other way. My book The Earth Will Reel shows that a logical progression of natural events, tied together by a single causal agent, could be used by God to accomplish much of his wrath.