What Happens Next? Revelation 8, The 7th Seal/4 Trumpet Blasts

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.

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.

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…”

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.

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.

Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. 

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.

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.

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.