Before we hop into our study of James, a little background information might help us with the rest of our study.
Although God has hidden some of the future from us, a mighty angel reveals that the sounding of the seventh trumpet will bring about the full completion of his plan. God’s word is both sweet and bitter to those for whom he gives it. – Kendell H. Easley
- Although one would expect John to move directly into the 7th and final trumpet, chapter 10 serves as an interlude of sorts – to build anticipation and ensure us that God has a plan and he is working it to perfection. It will be completed in His way and on His timetable.
Each day we make hundreds, if not thousands, of choices. Think about it, in this one day you’ve chosen when to get up, where you’re going, what clothes to wear, where to eat, what to do, how to relax, how to prepare for events or impending responsibilities, etc. This list could go on for pages.
9 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
- Whereas the first four trumpets had a direct impact upon creation: land, water, and sky, the fifth trumpet (9.1-11) has a direct impact upon man.
8 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
- After the intermission of chapter 7, we return to the opening of the 7 seals mentioned back in chapter 5.
- John’s report of the events continues from a heavenly perspective.
- Chapter 8 is largely a display of God’s judgment on sin through a series of trumpet blasts.
- “When the Lamb” – John reminds us briefly of what was stated in 5.6-10, that Christ is the only one worthy to open the seals.
- “silence in heaven for about half an hour” – until now, John’s description of heavenly events largely revolves around continual worship of the godhead…”day and night they never stop, saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was , who is, and who is to come” (4.8). This is no doubt a signal that something big is about to happen.
- The opening of the 7th seal is really the continuing of the unfolding of the judgment scroll of chapter 5. A telescoping of sorts.
- “What he sees and hears better described as angels blowing trumpets rather than as reading the contents of a scroll. Another way to think about this is that the seven trumpet judgments (and seven bowl judgments of chapter 16) are what is written on the scroll. After the seventh seal is broken, the scroll unrolls to reveal its contents.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 142.
2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
- “the seven angels who stand before God” – “John now notices a new group of “specialty angels,” parallel to the four angels restraining the four winds (7:1). These are the seven angels who stand before God. Jewish and Christian tradition has held that there are seven archangels (Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel). However, these are not named as archangels in Revelation. Michael and Gabriel are the only two named angels in the Bible, with Michael the only designated arch-angel and Gabriel the only one claiming to stand directly before God Jude 9; Luke 1:19). The archangel accompanies the trumpet call of God and the return of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 142.
- “seven trumpets were given to them” – Each of the seven is given a trumpet.
- “trumpet” – Mainly used to announce religious celebrations or war, also used throughout scripture to signal unusual acts of God or to announce divine pronouncements. Here to announce bystanders to watch and to listen for one of His great acts.
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,
- “another angel” – not one of the seven.
- “golden censer” – a bowl or fireman designed for holding live coals and incense.
- “incense to offer” – the sentence is difficult to interpret, but is probably best understood as, “he was given much incense to offer, which are the prayers of the saints…”
4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
- “rose before God” – APP: prayer matters. God notices our prayers. We aren’t told specifically the content of the prayers, but they probably mirror those of 6.10 and are prayers for God’s divine justice.
5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
- “The prayers that had ascended before God are transformed and hurled back to earth. The mood changes from intercession to judgment.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 143.
- “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.” – C.H.S.
- This censer flying toward earth is a foreshadow of other burning objects being flown toward the earth in the remainder of the chapter.
- “fire” – we should certainly understand the description of fire here to represent movements and actions of God’s judgment upon the earth.
- “peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and and earthquake” – a similar description can be found in Exodus at the giving of the 10 commandments, signifying the presence of God. Thus God sends judgment, and it is a personal matter to him.
6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
- Human imaginations have sought to explain exactly what would cause such an event (perhaps some environmental catastrophe of some sort), John leaves us to speculate. His focus is that this is a direct result of what was commanded in heaven.
- “a third” – this plague is devastating, but not completely fatal.
8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.
9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
- Just as had occurred with the dry land, now a third of the sea and sea life was destroyed.
- “something like a great mountain” – once again, we aren’t told exactly what this is, John would’ve been familiar with volcanic eruptions no doubt, but once again he is concerned with the direction from which this judgment occurs. It originates in heaven and has a direct trajectory for earth.
10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.
11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.
- The third trumpet is described as a meteor-ish event, perhaps to be taken literally as such. John’s concentration lies more upon the affects of the third trumpet. God’s judgment upon sin is a bitter experience. Here John describes the judgment of God claiming many lives through the poisoning of water.
12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.
- John may reference here the actual destruction of these heavenly bodies, or some type of eclipse, in which the light of the sun, moon, and stars is hindered for a third of the day or a third of the planet.
- The end result, no matter how one interprets v. 12 is disastrous.
- All of creation has now undergone judgment: earth, sky, and sea.
13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”
- Verse 13 announces dramatically that things upon the earth are about the become increasing worse with the upcoming final three trumpets.
- Revelation 7 gives us a picture of believers just before God’s final judgment(s) in verses 1-8, and after the judgment(s) are completed in verses 9-17.
- Chapter 7 reminds us that God is in the saving business from start to finish. It has major implications on the doctrines of eternal security and election (see verses 3-4).
- Chapter 7 reminds us that everyone that is sealed by God will, no doubt, receive the promise of eternal life.
More than once in Revelation an interlude halts the flow of an unfolding series. The events of chapter 7 fall between the breaking of the sixth and seventh seals. The events of chapter 10 and most of 11 fall between the blowing of the sixth and seventh trumpets. If Revelation was intended as a strict chronological composition, this would be distressing, but this is a literary masterpiece that communicates through sight and sound, so the interludes heighten our anticipation. We will be very anxious to find out what happens when the seventh seal is broken and the seventh trumpet is blown. – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 124.
- Chapter 7 gives us a glimpse of what heaven will be like for those who trust in Jesus.
- After visions of the worship of God and the worthiness of Christ in the previous two chapters, we are now drawn down to see the rebellion of the earth.
- Revelation contains 3 different series of God’s judgments – the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. – John Phillips has said:
- The seals – the world is ruined by man
- The trumpets – the world is ruined by Satan
- The bowls – the world is rescued by God (Exploring Revelation, 95)
- Chapter six contains six of the seven seals mentioned earlier in chapter 5.2. If you remember, the seals are representative of God’s judgment, thus in this chapter, we will begin to see and understand what that looks like.
- As a reminder, depending on one’s end times view, some may see these as specific future events and others may see these as general descriptions which happen throughout the course of history until the return of Christ. Regardless, many of the conclusions of these seals have large agreement among various scholars.
- The seals seem to progressively increase in intensity as the Holy Spirit’s restraint is removed from the earth.
5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
- “In the right hand” – a position of prestige, importance, or honor.
- “right hand of him” – God, for the first time in Revelation is described in human-like terms.
- Scholars have debated the nature of this unnamed scroll, but this most likely a scroll of judgment when you look at it’s placement within the context of Revelation. This scroll was probably originally mentioned in Ezekiel 2.9-10
And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
4 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
- A simpler translation: After I had seen all these things, I dreamed again and saw that there was an opening (door) into heaven. And the person who had a voice like a trumpet spoke to me again and said, “Come up here and I will let you see the things that will happen after this.
- “After this I looked” – “Vision one of Revelation is complete; vision two (4:1–16:21)—the longest of the four—is about to begin. In vision one John saw and heard Christ on the earth. Vision two begins with John taken to heaven. As he wrote the vision down, John included what he saw and heard in heaven as well as what he saw on earth. As we will observe when we reach chapter 12, this great second vision ends with John seeing two fantastic dramas that explain the why and the how of the consummation (12:1–14:20; 15:1–16:21).” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 73–74). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
A little background concerning the church at Laodicea
- A self-sufficient and commercial center, thriving in the medical and textile industries.
- Known for it’s production of wool cloth.
- About 35 years before this letter was written, the town was destroyed by earthquake, but they had enough resources within themselves to quickly rebuild.