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Bible Commentaries

Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Revelation 8

Verses 1-6

The Opening of the Seventh Seal The seventh seal serves as a prelude to introduce the seven trumpets. At this time the prayers of the saints rises up before the throne of God and the angel casts fire from the golden altar down upon the earth in order to bring about judgment upon those who have resisted God and persecuted the saints. Evidently, the prayers of the saints include pleas for God to vindicate them because of their persecutions.

Verses 1-13

The Opening of the Seven Seals and the Sounding of the Seven Trumpets Revelation 6:1 to Revelation 11:19 records the opening of the seven seals and the sounding of the seventh trumpet that accompanied the seventh seal.

The Purpose of the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets - The opening of the seven seals by the Lamb of God and the sounding of the seven trumpets by the angels serve as the testimony of Jesus Christ to the world that He is the Son of God. Just as Jesus Christ has testified to John the apostle in chapter one, and to the seven churches in chapters 2-3, He now speaks to the rest of the world in the only language that corrupt and wicked world will listen, which is through calamities and tribulation. This is why it is called the Tribulation Period. We see God’s effort to bring people to salvation through these events because there are a number of verses in this section that say, “yet they repented not of their evil works” (Revelation 9:20-21, Revelation 16:9-11). However, the bright side of this Tribulation Period reveals that a multitude of people will be saved during this difficult seven-year on earth.

The Message of the Book The book that was in the right hand of God and taken by the Lamb contains a story. The opening of the book’s seven seals reveals this story as a series of events that are coming upon the earth to judge mankind for its depravity, which depravity was most clearly revealed by the crucifixion of the Son of God, who is thus described here as the Lamb that was slain. In other words, God will use these events to judge the earth, which events are consummated by the Second Coming of Christ described in the opening of the sixth seal. Therefore, the opening of the first seal ushers in these judgments

1. View of the Sevens Seals Representing the Entire Church Age - One popular view is to interpret the seven seals as the sequence of events that will take place during the Church age leading to its consummation, which would begin during the time of the early church. For example, Michael Wilcox compares the order of events described in this passage of Scripture to the Eschatological Discourse of Matthew 24:1-31 by suggesting that Matthew 24:0 and Revelation 6:0 are the same discourse, with Matthew’s Gospel giving an earthly perspective, while the book of Revelation describes the same sequences of events from a heavenly perspective. [65] This view could be interpreted as such:

[65] Michael Wilcox, The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened, in The Bible Speaks Today, eds. J. A. Motyer and John R. W. Stott (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, c1975, 1986), 74-77.

a) The First Seal (Revelation 6:1-2 ) - The first seal reveals the first church age in which the Roman Empire, and the Catholic Church that emerged out of this empire, were the primary persecutors of the saints of God (Revelation 6:1-2). It is symbolized by the crown, showing its intent to conquer and rule over all peoples and places. Unlike the sword carried by the second horseman, the bow symbolizes its purpose to conquer, but not kill, those whom it dominates. The white symbolizes the color of the papacy.

b) The Second Seal (Revelation 6:3-4 ) - The second age of the Church saw the rise of Islam during the seventh century, with its symbol of the sword, showing its purpose was to kill men rather than to rule over them (Revelation 6:3-4). This great persecutor of the Church initially targeted all Jews and Christians, as well as other peoples, but it has continuously killed its fellow Muslims throughout the ages. The red may symbolize the blood it sheds in behalf of its religion.

c) The Third Seal (Revelation 6:5-6 ) - The third age of the Church is capitalism, with its purpose of controlling the world’s economy by a few wealthy individuals (Revelation 6:5-6). The scale represents its system of buying and selling to control men and nations. The black color is seen in the traditional black suit worn today by the leaders of businesses within this capitalistic system. This system arose with the rise of industrialization of western nations. All three of these systems, Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Capitalism, carry the spirit of anti-christ.

d) The Fourth Seal (Revelation 6:7-8 ) - The pale horse, with its riders Death and Hell (Revelation 6:7-8) represent the fourth age, which immediately precedes the Great Tribulation Period. This is the period in which the earth enters into travail as birth pangs, which Jesus called the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). This period takes place about one hundred years before the world enters into the Great Seven-year Tribulation Period. Perhaps this period began with World War I. It is a time when the three world systems of Catholicism, Islam and Capitalism are working in full force, and in conflict with one another, but all having the common mindset of hating the Jews and the Christians.

e) The Fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11 ) - The fifth seal reveals all of the saints slain during the Church age until its culmination, crying out for God’s vengeance (Revelation 6:9-11). Their role in this series of events is to intercede in behalf of one another to move God to avenge them and bring judgment upon the earth.

f) The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12 to Revelation 7:17 ) - The sixth seal clearly describes the seven-year Tribulation Period upon this earth, which culminates with Christ Jesus returning to earth to conquer and to rule and reign from Jerusalem for a thousand years (Revelation 6:12 to Revelation 7:17). It is during this period of Church history that many of the Jews will turn to Jesus Christ as their Messiah. God will seal them along with His saints to keep them during the Tribulation Period, described in Revelation 6:17 as “the great day of his wrath” and in Revelation 7:14 as “the great tribulation.”

g) The Seventh Seal (Revelation 8:1 to Revelation 11:19 ) The seventh seal serves as a prelude to introduce the seven trumpets. At this time the prayers of the saints rises up before the throne of God and the angel casts fire from the golden altar down upon the earth in order to bring about judgment upon those who have resisted God and persecuted the saints.

2. View of the Seven Seals Representing the Events of the Last Days Another view of the seven seals is to interpret them to symbolic the particular events that will take place during the period of time immediately preceding and including the Tribulation Period, rather spanning over a period of two thousand years. For example, John Ogwyn takes the sequence of events as a description of last days in Matthew 24:0 and makes them parallel to the sequence of events in Revelation. [66] This view could be interpreted as such:

[66] John H. Ogwyn, Revelation: The Mystery Unveiled (Charlotte, NC: Living Church of God, 2003) [on-line]; accessed 19 September 2010; available from http://www.tomorrowsworld.org/media/booklets/ru.pdf; Internet, 19-25.

a) The First Seal (Revelation 6:1-2 ) The opening of the first seal reveals a white horse and its rider that go forth with a bow to conquer. This event would parallel Matthew 24:5, which refers to the many false prophets that will go forth during the period before Christ’s Second Coming to deceive the Church.

b) The Second Seal (Revelation 6:3-4 ) The opening of the second seal reveals a red horse and its rider that go forth to kill. This event would parallel Matthew 24:6-7 a, which refers to the many wars that will take place immediately before the Tribulation Period.

c) The Third Seal (Revelation 6:5-6 ) The opening of the third seal reveals a black horse and its rider that go forth with a pair of scales. This event would parallel Matthew 24:7 b, which refers to famines, pestilences and earthquakes in divers places across the world.

d) The Fourth Seal (Revelation 6:7-8 )

e) The Fifth Seal (Revelation 6:9-11 )

f) The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12 to Revelation 7:17 )

g) The Seventh Seal (Revelation 8:1 to Revelation 11:19 )

The Opening of the First Six Seals Revelation 6:1-17 tells us of the Lamb opening six of the seven seals in the book of Revelation. The seventh seal will not be opened until Revelation 8:1. It is important to note that Jesus Christ is identified as a Lamb that has been slain. Within these seals are going to be released four spirits that will go across the earth and slay the saints of God. This is why the fifth seal reveals these martyrs under the altar of God.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse The first four seals that are opened in Revelation 6:1-8 describe the release four horses with their riders. These four horsemen are commonly referred to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The number four signifies the work of man. Thus, these four horsemen represent four aspects of the antichrist to persecute the Church and bring destruction upon mankind.

We find a similar account of this same scene in Zechariah 6:1-8 in the Vision of the Four Chariots. In the account in Revelation there is a white, horse, a red horse, a black horse and a pale horse. In Zechariah there are red horses, black horses, white horses and grisled and bay horses. Zechariah 6:5 tells us that these horses represent “the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.” Thus, we can assume that the four horses in Revelation also represent these same four spirits that have been sent forth.

I discuss the views of several scholars below. Some scholars suggest that these four horsemen are to be sent forth upon the earth immediately after the Rapture of the Church. Others suggest that they have been sent out at different periods of Church history. My suggestion is to agree with this second view that these four horsemen represent four spirits that have been sent forth upon the earth during the last two thousand years of Church history. The white horse would represent the spirit of Catholicism, which began during the Christianization of the Roman Empire under Constantine. The red horse could represent the spirit of Islam, which began in the seventh century. The black horse would represent capitalism, which began after the Reformation when nations began to develop industry and strong economies; or the black horse could represent Communism, which had its roots in the teachings of Karl Marx and was instituted in Russia during the early twentieth century. The pale horse could represent the distress and travail that the earth will enter into prior to the Tribulation Period. All of these spirits have led to the persecution of the Church across the world. This is why the fifth seal reveals the martyrs who have been slain over this period of time. Note that the martyrs are crying out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” This suggests that they have not been slain since the start of the Great Tribulation, but perhaps during the last two thousand years of Church history.

Verse 7

The First Trumpet Sounds The sounding of the first trumpet involves hail and fire mingled with blood.

The First Trumpet Interpreted as World War I - Irvin Baxter suggests this may be a reference to World War I. The “hail and fire mingled with blood” may be the description of gun battles from the eyes of a first-century writer. The burnt up trees and grass may refer to the military strategy called the “Scorched Earth Policy,” in which an army destroys anything that can be used by the enemy.

Revelation 8:7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

Verses 8-9

The Second Trumpet Sounds The sounding of the second trumpet involves something that looks like a great mountain burning with fire being cast into the sea.

The Second Trumpet Interpreted as World War II - Irvin Baxter believes this is a prophecy of World War II. He teaches that to a first century writer, the image of the mushroom cloud from the atomic explosions over Japan could have easily been described as “a mountain burning with fire.” The fact that Japan in an island in the Pacific Ocean fits the image of this burning mountain being cast into the sea. His research revealed that 105,127 ships, either merchant or battleship, that participated in the war, and that 36,387 were destroyed. This would fulfill the statement that a third part of the ships were destroyed. There were fifty-two million people killed during World War II. Baxter feels this is an event important enough to be put into biblical prophecy. [76]

[76] Irvin Baxter, Jr., Understanding the End Time: Lesson 12 The Seven Trumpets (Richmond, Indiana: Endtime, Inc., 1986) [on-line]; accessed 1 October 2008; available from http://www.endtime.com/Audio.aspx; Internet.

Verses 10-11

The Third Trumpet - The sounding of the third trumpet involves a great star named Wormwood polluting a third of the waters.

The Third Trumpet Interpreted as Chernobyl - Irvin Baxter believes this prophecy was fulfilled when a nuclear power plant in the Ukraine named Chernobyl exploded and rained down a radioactive material called Cesium-137 upon Russian, European and even a portion of American soil. On April 26, 1986 this nuclear reactor exploded sending radioactive material one mile into the sky. The fire inside this reactor burned for three weeks before it was totally extinguished by the Russians. There were 125,000 deaths directly attributed to this nuclear meltdown. Those who worked and lived in this vicinity were either killed or poisoned with radioactivity. In addition, this cloud of radiation made its way across Europe. The worst part of this event is the fact that it rained for the next five days in the area of this nuclear fallout, polluting the rivers and lakes across Europe with Cesium-137. Hundreds of thousands of livestock had to be slaughtered because they became contaminated in various ways. It is believed that over 200 million Russians and Europeans became highly contaminated with radiation because of these waters. Its long lasting results will not be known until the first and second generations of children are born from those who live with this contamination. These people are expected to have genetic birth defects as did the Japanese who survived the atomic bombs that destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. Baxter became convinced of this interpretation of the third trumpet when he found from credible research that the Ukrainian name for “wormwood” is “Chernobyl.” [77]

[77] Irvin Baxter, Jr., Understanding the End Time: Lesson 12 The Seven Trumpets (Richmond, Indiana: Endtime, Inc., 1986) [on-line]; accessed 1 October 2008; available from http://www.endtime.com/Audio.aspx; Internet.

Verse 12

The Fourth Trumpet - In the sounding of the fourth trumpet God uses what appears to be the heavenly to judge mankind.

Verse 13

The Announcement of the Last Three Trumpets An angel shouts in the midst of heaven to tell John that the last three plagues would be of greater severity than the first four.

Revelation 8:13 “Woe, woe, woe” Comments - There are to be three woes, each of which will be associated with the last three trumpets.

Revelation 8:13 Comments - The angel’s statement in Revelation 8:13 implies that the last three trumpets will be more intense than the previous.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Revelation 8". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/revelation-8.html. 2013.