Chapter 8

Introduction

In this chapter, we first see the final (seventh) seal event. Afterwards, we move on to the description of the trumpet period, which correspond to the period of time that the prophet Daniel called time, times, and half a time (Dan 7:25, Dan 12:7, Rev 12:14). The description of the trumpet period will continue through to the end of chapter 11.

Commentary

Seal #7 – Silence in Heaven

1When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

As explained in Revelation Overview, all things up to and including Christ’s return has been accomplished at the conclusion of the sixth seal event, and yet it is followed by this enigmatically quiet seventh seal event. In this event, John perceives heaven going silent for about half an hour. For John, it must have been somewhat unnerving.

Since the seals correspond to the 70th Week of Daniel, the opening of this final seal of the seven-sealed scroll means that the 70th week is finished. As discussed in the chapter 5 commentary, the scroll represents the Great Promise that Christ would fully reign upon the earth. Now, with its last seal opened, this symbolic scroll may finally be unrolled, revealing the promised new world. The eternal kingdom of God will have come to earth with Christ as its king, and the former kingdom of Satan will have been obliterated. This is the world Daniel described in Dan 7:26,27, which follows the 70th week. Revelation also describes this new world in chapters 20 and 21.

An Explanation for the Silence in Heaven

The meaning of the silence observed in the seventh seal is an open question. Naturally, everyone who develops a theory on how to understand Revelation will explain the seventh seal in some manner that suits their theory. Here, I’ll offer an explanation that suits the Overlapping Model presented in Revelation Overview.

In general, when we see imagery used in Revelation for which (1) no explanation is given, and (2) there is no obvious figurative meaning, it’s best to see if that imagery is alluding to something in the Old Testament.

Can we apply this principle to help understand the seventh seal? Perhaps so. Notice that the seal period may be described as follows:

  • A sequence of seven events.
  • All the work is completed within the first six events.
  • The seventh event is quiet.

Is there anything in the Old Testament that is similar to this? Yes, creation was a sequence of seven days in which the all the work was done within the first six days, and seventh day was was a quiet day of rest.

Genesis describes God creating the heavens and earth over the course of seven days, with the seventh being an enigmatic “rest” day. At that time:
– God declared that what he had accomplished was good (Gen 1:31).
– God alone was king over the earth.
– Man had direct communion with God (Gen 2:16, Gen 3:9).
As for that seventh day of “rest”, God sanctified it, making it holy (Gen 2:3, Ex 20:11).

The account of creation in Genesis established a pattern of seven, in which the seventh is holy to God. This pattern is carried forward to weeks of days (in which the seventh day is holy, Ex 20:8-11) and even weeks of years (in which the seventh year is holy, Lev 25:4).

Could the similarity between the pattern of creation and the pattern of the seals have any bearing on understanding the “quiet” seventh seal? Yes, because there are strong similarities between them:

  • When the seals are finished, the kingdom of God will have come. Sin shall be eliminated, and things will once again be as they when creation was finished. After this restoration:
    – Again, everything will be good (Rev 21:27),
    – Again, God alone will be king over the earth (Rev 22:3),
    – Again, man will have direct communion with God (Rev 21:3,7).
  • The coming of the kingdom represented by the seals will instigate a new creation. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away”; “And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:1,5).

The first creation was a great work of God that established the pattern of seven in which the seventh event is holy. It is no great stretch to think that the final great work of restoring creation (the Great Promise) might also follow this same pattern of seven.

Thus, the quiet seventh seal in Revelation may be a holy time unto the Lord, causing the seals to mirror the account of creation in Genesis. His great work of restoring creation will be accomplished with six events followed by a quiet and holy seventh event, just as His great work of original creation was accomplished in six days followed by a quiet and holy seventh day.

The Trumpet Introduction

As mentioned in Revelation Overview, each of the periods in Revelation (seals, trumpets, and bowls) begins with an introduction. Verses 2-5 constitute the trumpet introduction, with the trumpet events beginning in verse 6.

2And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

Another transition. The word “And” (Greek kai) is frequently used to transition into a new matter (e.g. Matt 4:23 KJV, Mark 6:1 KJV, John 1:19 KJV, Rev 14:6). This is why several translations of this verse either use “Then” (e.g. ESV, HCB, ISV, NET, GWT, WEY) or leave it out altogether (e.g. NLT, WEB). Of course, the context itself demands a transition because we have just moved from the seals to the trumpets.

Many commentators assume a chronological sequence here, arguing that these seven angels are given trumpets after the half-hour of silence mentioned in the seventh seal. However, there are problems with that assumption:

  • It ignores the fact that this marks a major transition from seals to trumpets, thereby dismissing all significance that God had intended when He divided the prophecy into these separate periods.
  • It also ignores the fact that the seven seals and the seven trumpets should each represent the completion of some purpose unto themselves (based on the meaning of the number seven). This notion of completeness is lost if the trumpets are simply a continuation of whatever the seals started.
  • Since the sixth seal is a summary of the bowls, we must observe that the sixth seal carried us all the way through the bowl events and the return of Christ in wrath (Rev 6:16-17). It doesn’t make sense that those bowls events encompassed in the sixth seal would then be chronologically followed by these trumpet events. For example, the second bowl which destroys the entire sea cannot be followed by the second trumpet which destroys one third of the sea!

Things make more sense if we simply see this transition into the trumpets as a clean break from the seals. The trumpets begin a whole new context and represent a different time period than the seals. Therefore, we have no reason to assume that they must follow chronologically after the seal events. The first trumpet event isn’t equivalent to an “eighth seal event”.

As explained in Revelation Overview, the trumpets correspond to the period of time that the prophet Daniel called “a time, times, and half a time“. This expression refers to period of time following the midpoint of the the seven-year end times period, and it encompasses the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

With this understanding, we see that the trumpets complement the information given in the seals.

  • The first four seals describe the first half of the seven-year end times period, which is the 3 1/2 years before the great tribulation.
  • The fifth seal describes the martyrdom of the saints during great tribulation in the final 3 1/2 years. That is, the fifth seal covers the same period of time as the first six trumpet events.
  • The sixth seal and the seventh trumpet are both summaries of the bowls (i.e. the Day of the Lord), which takes place after the great tribulation.

3Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

v3-5 Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer – Here, “another angel” begins some activity that resembles the actions carried out by the priests of Israel. For explanations of these verses, please see The Heavenly Temple.

v5 there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake – We first read about flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder in Rev 4:5. There, these were described as coming from the throne. Therefore, these things appear to be part of the vision in heaven. However, this time an “earthquake” is added.

Interestingly, we will see two similarly described earthquakes later on:

  1. In Rev 11:19 (the end of the seventh trumpet event) we again have the lightning, rumblings, thunder, and earthquake, but there it will add another thing: heavy hail.
  2. In Rev 16:18 (at the end of the bowl events), we again see lightning, rumblings, thunder, an earthquake and hail. Furthermore, chapter 16 elaborates on the earthquake and the hail, making it clear that these two phenomena occur on earth.

These two passages above (Rev 11:19 and Rev 16:18) may very well be referring to the same earthquake on earth. This is possible because (according to our Overlapping Model) the seventh trumpet is summary of the bowls, which means that the trumpets and bowls end at the same time and with the same event: The visible return of Christ in wrath — and this event is accompanied by a great earthquake and great hail.

Could it be that this “earthquake” here in verse 5 is also referring to the the same earthquake that occurs at the visible return of Christ? Yes! This earthquake is described in the context of the “priestly angel” hurling fire to the earth. As explained in The Heavenly Temple, this hurling of fire to the earth symbolizes God’s wrath coming to the earth, which means that it coincides with the end of the bowls and the end of the trumpets, just like the other two similar passages mentioned above.

What we are seeing is that this Trumpet introduction in verses 1-5 includes a summation of what will happen during the trumpet period, much like the Seal introduction (in chapters 4-5) included a summation of what would happen during the seal period. Later, we will see that the Bowl Introduction (in chapters 12-15) will include a summation of the bowl period.

Why do the trumpets begin with the Altar?

As discussed in The Heavenly Temple, the altar of sacrifice mentioned here in the trumpet introduction is meant to take us back to the fifth seal event where this same altar first mentioned.

To see why, notice that in the fifth seal, this same altar symbolized the sacrifice of saints who were killed because they held to the of testimony of God. More to the point, the fifth seal promised that there would be an final “little while longer” in which the number of saints to be killed would be completed (Rev 6:11). Symbolically, this means that a final group of saints would be sacrificed upon that altar during the great tribulation in the end times.

Here at the start of the trumpets, we again see saints connected with this altar of sacrifice, and they are again depicted as the ones being sacrificed because the smoke produced by the fire from this altar represents the prayers of saints rising up to God (Rev 8:4). Therefore, this trumpet introduction is symbolizing the same sacrifice of that same final group of saints, on the same altar, and during the same period of time referenced by the fifth seal. That period of time is the great tribulation.

When the final sacrifice of saints upon this altar is finished, the angel hurls fire from the altar to the earth. This symbolism tells us that when the great tribulation period is finished, God’s wrath will come to the earth. Notice that this parallels the seals perfectly, because (1) the final martyrdom of the fifth seal is followed by the wrath of the sixth seal, and (2) in both cases God’s wrath is in response to pleas from His persecuted saints (Rev 6:10 and Rev 8:4).

The great tribulation begins at the midpoint of Daniels’s 70th week. It will extend for 42 months, or 1260 days, which accounts for why these same durations are mentioned in the context of the trumpets (Rev 11:2,3). These 42 months are the “little while longer” mentioned in the fifth seal (Rev 6:11).

The Purpose of the Trumpet Events

I see the first six trumpets primarily as a time of warning to the earth, and the seventh as the time of wrath against the earth (it is a summary of the Day of the Lord). Here are my reasons:

  • While they do terrible destruction, the destruction is partial. The first four trumpets destroy one third of some critical part of the earth. In contrast, they will be followed by corresponding bowl events that destroy those same things completely.
  • The first five trumpets deal out destruction and pain, but their primary purpose is not to kill people.
  • The trumpets appear to progress with increasing severity as the end approaches, as warnings often do, up to the sixth trumpet event in which people are killed by intent.
  • Recall that by the time the trumpets begin, God will have already prepared 144,000 Jewish servants to spread the gospel throughout the earth during the time of the trumpets (discussed in chapter 7). This will contribute to the fulfillment of Matt 24:14 – This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
  • We will also see that God has two special witnesses to Jerusalem during the time of the trumpets. They will have the world’s attention, and they will no doubt be telling the world about the upcoming wrath of God (discussed in chapter 11).
  • After the first six warning trumpets, Revelation pauses in Rev 9:20,21 to inform us that the warnings were not heeded. Consequently the wrath of the seventh trumpet must come, and it will be justified.
  • Trumpets are associated with warning (e.g. Ezek 33:3,4,5,6, 2 Chron 13:14, Neh 4:20, Jer 4:19). This point is discussed further in the section below.
  • It has always been God’s way to give abundant warnings (e.g. Gen 6:13-14, Gen 19:17, Deut 32:46, 1 Sam 8:9, 1 Kings 9:6, 2 Kings 17:13, Psalm 2:10, Psalm 19:11, Jer 6:8, Jer 11:7, Ezek 3:17, Jonah 1:2). God warns because He would rather receive repentance than give punishment.

And so the trumpets will be the last call on earth for people turn to the Lord, repent, and be saved. They may be likened to warning shots, fired with intent only to injure or startle. However, we shall see that much of the unbelieving world will disregard the warning shots, and thus they will be subjected to the fatal shots of the bowl judgments.

Why Trumpets?

Trumpets have special significance to Israel. For one thing, they were sounded when Israel was under attack:

Numbers 10:9 says When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and be saved from your enemies.

This seems highly appropriate, because the nation Israel will definitely be attacked in their land when the time of the trumpets begin at the midpoint of the seven-year period. Also, it is revealed that God will save them from their enemies at that time.

  • The attack in their land – The event that marks the midpoint is the abomination of desolation the Christ spoke of in Matt 24:15-16 15Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Also, Luke recorded this as follows: Luke 21:20-21 20But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21“Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. That is, Antichrist himself will come with armies to attack Israel at the midpoint. Thus the time period of the trumpets and the great tribulation begins.
  • God’s salvation of Israel from their enemies – As explained in the Final Restoration of Israel, there shall be a remnant of Israel divinely saved by God.

Also, as explained in The Heavenly Temple, the activity of the angel in verses 3-5 corresponds to the activities of Jewish priests on the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement falls on the tenth day of the seventh Jewish month (Tishri). During the ten days that precede the Day of Atonement (starting on the first day of Tishri), the Jews observe the Feast of Trumpets, which is a period of repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement.

It is fitting then, that Revelation should describe a series of trumpets that warn the earth to repent, concluding with a final Day of Atonement where God’s wrath comes upon those who fail to repent.

Appropriately, the sounding of a trumpet is prophetically called an alarm (i.e. warning) associated with the coming of the Day of the Lord in Joel 2:1 – Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near. I believe that the actual alarms will be the upcoming trumpet events, and indeed they will conclude with the Day of the Lord.

The Trumpet Events

The trumpet events, described below, are generally difficult to confidently understand. This is partly because there is little said about them elsewhere in scripture. Jesus did not elaborate upon them in his Olivet discourse, and they are only sparsely referenced in Old Testament prophecies.

For the first four trumpet events, it is not hard to suppose that they describe (using figurative language) events that might appear as natural phenomena — albeit horribly destructive.

6And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.

v6 And the seven angels – Having finished the trumpet introduction, the narrative returns to the trumpet angels (introduced in verse 2) who will be sounding the trumpet events.

Trumpet #1 – One Third of Earth and Trees

7The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

v7 hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth – This could possibly be referring to volcanic activity.

Speculation: You may be aware that there are a number of “super volcanos” on the earth which have not erupted for many thousands of years. One example is Yellowstone National park, which had been observed to rise ten up to inches in places between 2004 and 2010, sometimes as much as three inches per year. Scientists say that the caldera of Yellowstone spans about 1500 square miles. Just one volcano like that erupting could severely disrupt climate and agriculture around the whole world. Other known super volcanoes exist in Indonesia, Chile, Japan, Italy, and Russia. Possibly, there could be a connection between them and this first trumpet event.

v7 a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up – So begins the great harm to the earth and trees that was being held back until the 144,000 Jewish servants of God could be sealed (Rev 7:3).

It appears that this first trumpet event was referenced by the prophet Joel:

Joel 1:15-19 – 15Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty. 
  16Has not food been cut off before our eyes, Gladness and joy from the house of our God? 17The seeds shrivel under their clods; The storehouses are desolate, The barns are torn down, For the grain is dried up. 
  18How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle wander aimlessly Because there is no pasture for them; Even the flocks of sheep suffer. 19To You, O LORD, I cry; For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness And the flame has burned up all the trees of the field.

Joel’s prophecy describes great destruction. The food shortage in verses 16-17 corresponds to the famine referenced in the third seal event (during the first 3 1/2 years). The burning of the pastures and trees describes the first trumpet event (early in the second 3 1/2 years). Please note that verse 15 identifies these things as signs that the Day of the Lord is near. That is, the Day of the Lord will follow soon after these things. This agrees with the Overlapping Model, which says that the Day of the Lord starts with the bowls, which follow soon after the trumpets.

Trumpet #2 – One Third of the Sea

8The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, 9and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.

v8 something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea – This could also be possibly explained naturally by meteorites striking the ocean, perhaps like the series of comet fragments that struck Jupiter in 1994.

v8-9 and a third of the sea became blood, 9and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed – It’s unclear what the “blood” color of the ocean represents. It brings to mind the first plague against Egypt (Ex 7:14-25), which served to warn Pharaoh that he was opposing God. I believe the trumpet events serve a similar purpose. This also resembles the second bowl judgment, except that the bowl will completely ruin the oceans.

Trumpet #3 – One Third of Fresh Water

10The 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 waters. 11The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.

v10-11 a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11The name of the star is called Wormwood – It is more difficult to associate this with natural phenomena. Possibly, this may be the result of the earlier trumpets, as smoke, ash, acids and sulfur ejected into the atmosphere by the volcanic pollutes fresh water supplies. “Wormwood” is the actual name of a plant which is known for having a very bitter taste.

This is one of three “stars” described as coming from heaven in Revelation. The other two are in Rev 9:1 (the fifth trumpet event) and Rev 20:1 (following the bowls). In all cases, the “star” is best understood to be an angelic being, although there can be disagreement over which ones are holy angels and which are unholy angels (demons). I believe that these “trumpet stars” in chapters 8 and 9 are both demonic (they are both described as fallen from heaven) whereas the angel is chapter 20 is clearly holy (described as coming down from heaven). The implication is that this demon, given the name “Wormwood”, somehow has the ability cause much of the fresh water supplies to be polluted. Whether he does this directly or causes people to do this is unclear.

v11 a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter – Fresh water is polluted to the point where much of it is effectively poisoned. Possibly, ash in the water makes water murky and stimulates bacterial growth, or it is poisoned as some act of terrorism. Whatever it is, many people will die either from drinking the bad water, or due to a severe shortage of drinkable water. This resembles the third bowl event, except that the bowl will cause all fresh water will go bad.

Trumpet #4 – One Third of Sun, Moon, and Stars

12The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.

v12 a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck – This might also be explained naturally by the volcanic ash and smoke in the atmosphere, effectively blocking much of the incoming light.

v12 so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way– This fourth trumpet resembles the ninth plague in Egypt (Ex 10:21-29), and it also resembles the fifth bowl judgment, except that the bowl will be complete darkness.

Introduction to the “Three Woes”

13Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

v13 I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice – John sees an eagle in his vision. In the Bible, eagles are consistently used to indicate swiftness. The eagle he sees speaks a message:

v13 “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” – This message separates the first four trumpets from the last three. This is similar to the seals where the first four seals (the four horsemen) were distinct from the last three.

Within the trumpets, the last three trumpets are called the “Three Woes”. The first four trumpet events were extremely severe in that they primarily damaged the natural life sustaining elements of the earth (land & vegetation, oceans, water, and atmosphere). However, the intensity is stepped up in the final three trumpet events, as people shall be afflicted directly.

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