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Saturday, June 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 8

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-13

Revelation 8:1 . When he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. The holy prophets in receiving revelations sought to be silent, calm, and abstracted from earthly ideas. So in the temple, while Zachariah was burning incense within, the people prayed in silence without. Luke 1:10.

Revelation 8:2 . Seven trumpets. The first design of those trumpets was to avenge the blood of the martyrs on the cruel idolaters of the Roman world; and the sound of the trumpet is a speaking figure of excitement to war, and to all the horrors which follow in its train.

The sounding of the trumpets have likewise the closest connection with the effusion of the seven vials, as is expressed by the sacred text. The earth, or Roman world, is the object of the first trumpet, and of the first vial. The sea, is the object of the second trumpet, and of the second vial. The fountains and rivers are the objects of the third. The sun is the object of the fourth. The kingdom of the beast is the object of the fifth. The Turkish empire is designated by the sixth trumpet, which looses the four angels in the Euphrates. The sixth vial is poured out on the Euphrates, the great river which runs through the centre of the Mahomedan powers. The seventh superinduces lightnings, thunders, earthquakes, and great hail: Revelation 11:19. All these denote the shaking of the nations, as in Haggai 2:6. Hebrews 12:26.

Revelation 8:3-4 . Another angel came and stood at the altar. Some think this was Michael the prince and protector of the church; but the incense which he offered on the golden altar indicates the presence of the great highpriest of our profession, perfuming the prayers of the saints with the merits of his sacrifice.

Revelation 8:5 . The angel took the censer and filled it with fire of the altar. By this we understand the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of burning, the Spirit of a jealous and angry God, scattering fire on the earth.

Revelation 8:7 . The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood. The irruption of the northern nations on Italy, Dalmatia, Thessalia, as Sigonius and St. Jerome testify, burning towns, ravishing matrons and virgins, capturing aged bishops, killing presbyters, and all men who stood in their way. These ravages commenced about the year 376, and continued for many years.

Revelation 8:8-9 . The second angel sounded, and as (if) it were a great mountain, the old Roman empire, burning with fire, was cast into the sea of troubles and confusion by the wide-spreading wars of the Vandals, the Franks, and others which reached all parts of Gaul, and ultimately the whole nation of Spain. Those irruptions of the barbarians commenced about the year of Christ 406. They crossed the Rhine on the first day of January 407, and entered Belgia, when the river might possibly be frozen over, and a passage opened by the hand of heaven. They do not appear to have met with any power to oppose their progress.

On the word, το τριτον , the third part, I find many opinions, but perhaps it is what seems plainly denoted, that the third part of Europe was either slain or wasted by their wars. In that case, the scourges had their limits. Our critics are, it would seem, all misguided, who confine those two trumpets to jewish affairs; for what had the jews to do with the seas?

Revelation 8:10-11 . The third an g el sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven. This designates a conqueror, as Balaam said, “a star shall rise out of Jacob, and shall smite the corners of Moab.” Mr. Whiston refers this to the terrible Attila, who in the year 442, and thence to 452, marched a great army along the Danube, and crossed the Rhine, and thence returned to Lombardy. Sigonius calls him metus orbis, and flagellum Dei. The terror of the earth, and the scourge of God. If all men expound the four beasts of Daniel of the conflicts of empires, why may not the trumpets of John be illustrated in like manner? War and peace, rewards and punishments, are the cares of a God.

Revelation 8:12 . The fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars. Hence followed the intellectual and moral obscuration of the sun of Europe. All libraries were burned, all schools annihilated, and the verdure of the earth was withered. No traces of literature remained, except some sparks glimmering in a few convents, which had escaped the general desolation. Of the true character of those dogs of war, allow me to translate a specimen from the Belles Lettres of M. Thomas, member of the French Academy. The warrior had landed with a small army in England, and being vanquished, was condemned to die by serpents. The following expiring speech is put into the mouth of this warrior and poet. “What is the destiny of a valiant man, when denied the glory to fall in war? Is he worthy to live that never received a wound? He leads an indolent life as a coward that never made use of his soul. When the sword is unsheathed, it is the warrior’s duty to meet the warrior. I revere the man that never flinched from foe. This is the glory of a man of honour; and every youth who aspires at marriage, must first distinguish himself as prompt and bold in battle No; in the palace of the powerful Odin, there is no man that shrunk at the aspect of death. I do not approach Odin with the voice of despair. Oh how my children would fly to arms, if they knew the calamity of their father, devoured by a multitude of serpents! I have provided them a mother adequate to inspire them with courage. My last moments approach. The slow fangs of the serpents assail me with a cruel death: one of them is entwined about my breast. But I hope that the sword of my children shall be dipped in the blood of my enemies. I have fifty one times unfurled the standard of battle, having from youth been accustomed to stain my sword with blood. My hopes then were, that no prince on earth would surpass me in valour. But I await the goddesses of death, who call me hence. I follow you. It would be cowardice to regret to die. It is time to close my songs. The goddesses invite me away: they approach. Odin has sent them to me from his palace. I shall sit exalted in his presence. The goddesses shall pour me out an immortal beverage. It is done. The periods of life expire. I go smiling in death.”


The six seals brought us to the end of the pagan empire of Rome; but the seventh, the great and last seal, including the trumpets and vials, reaches down to the end of time, when the mystery of God shall be finished. The ancient doctors did not understand the application of these trumpets, because they were unaccomplished; hence they talk of antichrist, and of the punishment of the wicked in the end of the world.

The scene opens in heaven, with the silent suspense and deep attention of angels for about half an hour, the usual time of silence in the temple while the priest burnt incense; and some say, figurative of the peace of the church under Constantine. In his reign, the pagans in general conformed to the religion of the court, knowing little of christianity, except the creed and the ten commandments, required as preparatory to baptism. The homage they had paid to the gods, was now transferred to the martyrs. The Arian controversy having broken out, they embraced it. Hence they never were spiritually part of the church. They were the third and fourth generation of the pagans who had massacred and martyred about a million of christians under Dioclesian.

While the prayers of the true saints were presented to the Father as grateful incense, through the merits of Christ, these men, pagans in morals and apostates in faith, were only reprieved till the first angel sounded his trumpet. Then the Goths finding the empire weak, issued forth under Alaric, as hail and fire, on the cities of Turkey in Europe; and blood flowed without measure in their course. The trees, or great ones, and the grass or common people, were reduced one third in population. Jerome, who lived in those times, describes their course, as marked with every indignity barbarians could offer to human nature and the weaker sex. These calamities began about the year 380.

The second trumpet, casting a burning mountain into the sea, (an idea apparently derived from Vesuvius) seems to mark the irruption of the Goths into Italy. They pillaged and burnt Rome in the year 410, and spread terror and carnage over all the north of Italy first, and then to the extremities of the south.

The third trumpet hurled a bitter star or meteor on all the rivers and fountains of Europe, which according to Mr. Mede, seems to mark the wide spreading calamities of the northern hive that swarmed with ravages and carnage, from the Danube to the rock of Gibraltar.

The fourth trumpet darkened the sun of the old Roman empire with an everlasting cloud by a fresh invasion of Italy in the year 476, and broke it up into about ten kingdoms, as Daniel had predicted by the ten toes, partly of iron, and partly of clay: Daniel 2:40-43.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 8". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/revelation-8.html. 1835.
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