Trumpet Judgments - Revelation 8
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When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 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, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 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. 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!”
- We are waiting on the opening of all seven seals to open the document of reception
- Seals 1-4 were the four horsemen, with their associated calamities
- Seal #5 were the martyrs crying out to God for justice. They were told to wait a little longer.
- Seal #6 unleashes the Day of the Lord with earthquake, sun going to black, the sky being rolled up, with the earth-dwellers crying out for refuge from God’s wrath.
- Most scholars see all six seals as yet future, but an argument may be made that the first 5 could have been opened in the first century, while the sixth is still to come.
- In other words, the first 5 represent birth pangs that increase in intensity as the time of delivery nears.
- In Matthew 24, Jesus says when we see the same types of things as in the first five seals, the end is “not yet.”
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
- God paused to hear the silent prayers of the saints, corresponding to the time of daily prayers/sacrifices at the temple
- The priest in charge of the incense would be inside the temple while the people outside were praying.
- Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist was that incense priest
- Luk 1:21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple.
- In the absence of a temple, the congregants pray in silence, as they do today in the synagogue in the Amidah prayer.
- Dan 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
- Jerusalem was in rubble, yet Daniel still faced Jerusalem when He prayed.
- An alternate conjecture is that God paused to hear the defense of Earth-dwellers who feel the sixth seal was unwarranted/unfair.
- Lo and behold, they have nothing to say. *If the seven trumpets are not sequential but are more of a retelling of events that happened during the seven seals, the pause could be the end of the earth age (the sixth seal), and the beginning of the Messianic age (aka, what we call the “age to come”)
- The Messianic Age is often seen as a type of “sabbath rest”
- In fact, the ancient sages said there would be 6000 years of man fruitless toil, followed by 1000 years of Messiah’s sabbath peace
- An alternate conjecture is that God paused to hear the defense of Earth-dwellers who feel the sixth seal was unwarranted/unfair.
Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
- Seven angels – Judaic tradition during the first century held seven archangels serving on God’s council: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Saraquel, Raguel, and Remiel (with the first two mentioned directly in the Bible, and the first four being, in a sense, preeminent over the other three
- Called army to war, worshippers to the temple, and told the tribes in the wilderness it was time to move
- The Trumpet of God sounded when the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai
- Seven trumpets blew at Jericho
- Rosh Hashana is the Festival of Trumpets – the coming of the Messiah is heralded by Trumpet blasts
- Isa 27:13 And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.
- The reference to those lost in Assyria would refer to the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom – the incident that supposedly led to the “10 lost tribes.”
- As we said in study of chapter 7, God knows exactly where the 10 tribes are.
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, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
- Incense is a frequent symbol for the prayers of the righteous.
- Psa 141:2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!
- Here, the prayers could be the prayers of the martyrs from the 5th seal, calling on God to avenge their blood.
- Here, it could be that their wait is over.
- “Prayers of all the saints” could be a reference to John 17:12 “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. " In other words, every saint is accounted for.
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.
- Clearly a judgment.
- Eze 10:2 And he said to the man clothed in linen, “Go in among the whirling wheels underneath the cherubim. Fill your hands with burning coals from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city.” And he went in before my eyes.
- This is the beginning of the wrath. The trumpet can now blow.
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.
- Hail is often viewed as symbolic of death by stoning; a form of capital punishment reserved for a certain class of crimes such as sexual sin, idolatry, witchcraft, blasphemy, and murder.
- It is also the punishment for rebellious children, though there are no recorded instances of this punishment being carried out solely for this offense.
- In later years, a court that handed down more than one death sentence every seven (some say seventy) years was seen as “bloodthirsty”
- The rabbis instituted several legal standards to make capital punishment rare, many of which were violated at Jesus' trial.
- Subsequent trumpets will also destroy “only” 1/3 of their intended targets.
- 2/3 will be left for the wrath to be poured out later (bowls) – the 1/3 is intended to get rebellious man’s attention.
- Ezekiel’s haircut
- Eze 5:1 “And you, O son of man, take a sharp sword. Use it as a barber’s razor and pass it over your head and your beard. Then take balances for weighing and divide the hair.
- Eze 5:2 A third part you shall burn in the fire in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. And a third part you shall take and strike with the sword all around the city. And a third part you shall scatter to the wind, and I will unsheathe the sword after them.
- (Explanation) Eze 5:12-13 A third part of you shall die of pestilence and be consumed with famine in your midst; a third part shall fall by the sword all around you; and a third part I will scatter to all the winds and will unsheathe the sword after them. Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that I am the LORD—that I have spoken in my jealousy—when I spend my fury upon them.
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.
- Sounds like a volcano such as Mt. Vesuvius, which would have been in the recent memory of John’s audience.
- Sea becoming blood is reminiscent of the first plague of Moses
- Exo 7:17-18, 22 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts.
- Jeremiah envisioned Babylon as a burning mountain
- Jer 51:24-25 “I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done in Zion, declares the LORD. 25 “Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, declares the LORD, which destroys the whole earth; I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and make you a burnt mountain.
- Remember, to the original audience, Babylon = Rome, since both had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.
- In our day we have supply chain issues, with pictures of ships backed up in the major ports of the world waiting to unload their cargo. Imagine 1/3 of the ships filled with cargo being wiped out and the havoc that alone would bring to society.
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. 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.
- Wormwood is a bitter root, often used symbolically:
- Idolatry (figurative adultery): Deu 29:18 Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the LORD our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit,
- Literal adultery:
- Heb 12:15-16 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.
- Pro 5:3-4 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, 4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
- Judgment: Jer 9:15 (also Jer 23:15) Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink.
Lam 3:15 He has filled me with bitterness; he has sated me with wormwood.
- Rth 1:20-21 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi (pleasantness); call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
- Laodicea would have been particularly interested in the attack on fresh water.
- Why is the star named? This is not a natural or man-made environmental (nuclear) disaster, but is likely a name of an angelic being sent to poison the waters.
- While it’s interesting that the Ukrainian name for Chornobyl means mudwort or wormwood, the Chornobyl nuclear disaster can’t represent the third trumpet, since there’s been no seventh seal or first two trumpets.
- Some view this as Satan (Isa 14:12), but, presumably, Satan has already fallen by the time Wormwood falls.
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.
- Darkening is a common apocalyptic sign for the spiritual host of heaven
- It’s interesting that when a volcano such as Mt. Vesuvius erupted, there were events similar to the sequence of trumpets 2, 3, and 4,
- Some scholars see natural events, or, more specifically, God directing natural events to accomplish His purposes.
- The comparison to a volcano erupting could also be symbolic of a supernatural judgment and the destruction that follows.
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!”
- Woe is the opposite of the Hebrew “ashrei”, which we translate as “blessed”
- The word in Hebrew is “oy!”
- Luk 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
- Luk 6:26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
- An Eagle was an omen in Roman society – the three woes correspond to the remaining three trumpets
Rev 9:12 after the fifth trumpet: “the first woe has passed, behold two more…”
- Rev 11:14 after the sixth trumpet: “the second woe has passed.”
- The third woe is not mentioned but, the seventh trumpet will usher in bowl judgments and the fall of Babylon (Rev 11:15)
- These woes were intended to have the earth-dwellers repent, but they did not (Rev 9:20-21)
- As a reminder, those who were sealed in chapter 7 are protected from these judgments (Rev 9:4)
- Those who dwell on earth is a title – “earth-dwellers”
- These are the ones hostile to God who make the earth their spiritual home
- As believers, we dwell in heaven not on earth.
- The first four shofar judgments affected nature directly; the last three will affect people directly
- In our modern vernacular, we might say, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
- Chuck Missler, an engineering major from the Naval Academy, sees a “logarithmic progression” to the various judgments. The subsequent judgment is not just the next in the sequence, but exponentially increases in intensity and destruction.