Previous Section: Chapter Seven - Deliverance


[Trumpet Judgments 1-4]

Revelation 8:1-2

And when he broke (1) the seventh seal, there was (2) silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw (3) the seven angels who stand before God; and (4) seven trumpets were given to them.

1. The seventh seal = is the last of the seven seals which keeps the content of the scroll hidden. Only now can the content of the scroll be known. The seventh seal is of the nature of the last three seals. That is, the wrath of God is in focus. The fifth seal requests the pouring out of the wrath of God. The sixth seal announces the imminent outbreak of the wrath of God. Now the seventh and final seal depicts the actual beginning of God’s wrath in the form of seven trumpet judgments.

2. Silence in heaven = has received wide discussion. Lacking explicit explanation wild speculation has abounded about the significance of this period of silence. The fact that the silence occurs in heaven is important. Since the creation of the angelic host, the adorers of heaven have continually praised and worshiped the great God of glory. That stops! There is only one event at this point in human history that could possibly render heaven silent—the wrath of God. Restrained since the Flood and promised since Adam, the eschatological wrath of God is about to finally begin. So dramatic is God’s wrath that all the eternal activities of heaven—praise and worship of the Magnificent—stop!

3. The seven Angels (who stand before God) = is a definite group. A, and, and the are articles. They are used with nouns to indicate general or specific information about something. One can say, "An apple or the apple." In the Greek language, the presence of the article the can indicate several things. In the case of Revelation 8:2,the article indicates a group known to the readers. Some argue that these seven angles are archangels. However, John simply identifies these angels as those who stand before God. The Greek perfect tense (which is used with the verb to stand) suggests that these angels are special. All angels at one time or another stand before God for instructions, but these stand continually. Perhaps, these angels have a special activity for which they have waited to do since the beginning of creation.

4. Seven trumpets were given to them = is the special activity of these seven angels. They will blow the trumpets, which will be specifically defined beginning in verse 6 below.

Revelation 8:3-5

And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much (1) incense was given to him, (2) that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel took the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it to the earth; and there followed (3) peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

1. Incense = in Israel was usually a spice that produced a pleasing order when burnt.

2. That he might add it to the prayers of all the saints = indicates the purpose of the incense or spices. The purpose of an incense offering was to please God in the hope that He would respond with favor regarding ones request or need. The adding of incense to the prayers of the saints suggest the final step in gaining God’s response.

The saints (ton hagion) refers to believers, naturally. Some have suggested that only living believers on earth at this particular point in human history is the focus of the term. However, John states that "the prayers of all the saints" are on this altar. What prayers is an obvious question? The only prayers of all the saints unanswered and contextually appropriate at this point are prayers of vengeance. Unanswered down through the ages, the prayers for God’s ultimate judgment against those who persecute the righteous has finally come.

3. Peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake = describe the first evidence of God’s wrath about to fall on the earth. Because thunder, sounds, lightning and an earthquake occur in connection with the seventh bowl, some argue that the trumpets and bowls are synonymous. However, this is a result of ignoring the textual details and focusing on generalities. At this point, in the chronology of the Revelation, God’s wrath has not begun. Only the sign of its imminent outbreak has occurred.

Revelation 8:6

And the seven angels who had (1) the seven trumpets (2) prepared themselves to sound them.

1. The seven trumpets = is the sound cycle of seven that appears in the book of Revelation. Like the seven seals, the trumpets can be divided into two cycles. Like the first four seals, the first four trumpets are alike in nature. Similarly, the final three trumpets are alike as were the final three seals. As the final three seals dealt with the wrath of God, the final three trumpets will deal with an intensified expression of God’s wrath (the three woes).

Trumpets have a rich tradition in the Old Testament Scriptures. Predominantly, trumpets were used to (1) call God’s people together; (2) call to repentance; (3) announce judgment; (4) call to salvation; (5) call to the king’s coronation; and (6) announce eschatological judgment. The apostle Paul indicates that the trumpet of God will blow at the Parousia of Christ (1 Thess 4:16, 1 Cor 15:52). A teaching reflected in the teachings of Christ in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24:30-31). The seven trumpets of Revelation clearly announce judgment.

2. Prepared themselves to sound them = is not defined, i.e. we do not know what preparation was made.

Revelation 8:7

And the first sounded, and there came (1) hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and (2) a third of the earth (3) was burnt up, and a third of the trees were burnt up, and all the green grass was burnt up.

1. Hail and fire, mixed with blood = are the manifestations of the first trumpet. Because of the results stated after this announcement, fire is the primary characteristic of the first trumpet.

2. A third of the earth = is clearly a defining trait of the trumpet judgments which should not be overlooked or generalized. This point clearly distinguishes the trumpet judgments from the seals and bowls. Only those who wish to ignore textual details while overly pressing generalities would equate the seals, trumpets and bowls.

3. Burnt up = the inhabitable part of the earth’s surface has been reduced by one-third.

Revelation 8:8-9

And the second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and (1) a third of the sea became blood; and a third of the creatures, which were in the sea and had life, died; and (2) a third of the ships were destroyed.

1. A third of the sea became blood = focuses the affects of the second trumpet. Destruction is focused against one-third of the salt water of the earth. Salt water becomes blood. We see no reason not to take this text literally. As the Nile became blood for Moses, one-third of salt water will do the same. This naturally results in death for those creatures needing oxygen. Blood is the only element of a dead body, which cannot be harvested.

2. A third of the ships were destroyed = is a natural disaster resulting from the destruction of the sea.

Revelation 8:10-11

And the third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on (1) a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters; and (2) the name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood; and (3) many men died from the waters, (4) because they were made bitter.

1. A third of the rivers and on the springs of waters = indicates a progression from land, to water (salt and fresh), to the heavens. The first four trumpets share the same nature. The surface of the earth is dramatically reduced by one-third. Since a single star could not literally fall on a third of the fresh water sources of the earth, John intends the reader to understand that the star affected one-third of the rivers and springs on the earth. How? That is unknown.

2. The name of the star is called Wormwood = is a unique phrase. There is no historical evidence that a star by this name existed in the ancient world. Wormwood is a medicinal herb of antiquity used to dispel worms from the intestines. It is very bitter.

3. Many men died from the water = is the natural result of fresh water made bitter. Wormwood is known for its bitterness, however, death is not normally associated with this herb.

4. Because they were made bitter = indicates the reason for the death of many people. Dehydration is not the cause of death, but drinking the water kills people. Thus, the purpose of the third trumpet is to kill men with bitter water.

Revelation 8:12

And the fourth angel sounded, and (1) a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were smitten, (2) so that a third of them might be darkened and (3) the day might not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.

1. A third of the sun…moon…and…stars were smitten = again indicates an affect on the heavenly light sources.

2. So that a third of them might be darkened = Unlike the sixth seal where all light sources were temporally darkened, here only a third of the stars are darkened.

3. The day…and the night (might not shine) = what the exact affect of the fourth trumpet is not clear. Whether a twenty-four hour day becomes a sixteen hours day or whether three eight hour segments (day, night, and darkness) are intended cannot be dogmatically stated. At any rate, man loses a third of his light.

Revelation 8:13

And I looked, and (1) I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, (2) "Woe, woe, woe, to (3) those who dwell on the earth, because of the (4) remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!"

1. I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying = is obviously a figure of speech. One cannot hear an eagle flying, but normally one sees an eagle flying. Equally, eagles do not speak normally. It is possible that this particular eagle will speak in the same way Balaam’s ass spoke (Num 22:22-30). However, a solution that is more probable is that the eagle is a figure of speech. The actions of an angelic being moving in midheaven can be compared to an eagle flying in the sky. Flying suggests horizontal movement rather than the descending/ascending movement typical of angels.

2. Woe, woe, woe = a sign of trouble. The three "woes" are critical to the debate concerning the chronology of the Revelation. See the discussion of the structure of the book for more details.

3. Those who dwell on the earth = this is the third occurrence of this important phrase. The eagle makes clear that the intended victims of the trumpet judgments are the earth-dwellers. These individuals are consistently portrayed throughout the Revelation as enemies of God and the objects of God’s wrath.

4. Remaining blasts = there are three blasts or trumpets left to blow. These three trumpets are the three "woes." The severity of the three last trumpets is clearly emphasized.


Next Section: Chapter Nine - Completion of 70th Week [Trumpet Judgments 5-6]
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