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1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
Ver. 1. The seventh seal ] The business or parts whereof are the seven trumpets, that sound a dreadful alarm against the Roman empire, ready now to be ruined for the innocent blood, and upon the instant suit of the martyrs, Revelation 6:10 .
There was silence in heaven ] That is, in the Church on earth, often called the kingdom of heaven. This half an hour’s silence was either for horror and admiration, or for ardent expectation, or (as some will have it) for religious awe and devotion. Christ the high priest, being now about to offer incense (those prayers of the martyrs, Rev 6:10 ), there was in the Church (as used to be in the temple at such times, Luk 1:10 ) a deep silence. So among the Romans, the people in time of worship were enjoined favere linguis, to spare their tongues. And in the Greek Church one stood up and cried, Σιγα, λαος, αφεσις, λαος , Peace, people, leave off your discourse. Among the heathen Athenians in the time of divine rites, the priests craved silence of the people in these words, Ευφημειτε, σιγα, πας εστωλεως , Be whist, all ye people, good words or nothing. Male ominatis parcite verbis. (Archaeol. Attic. 55. Horat.)
2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
Ver. 2. Which stood before God ] In a waiting posture, ready pressed to do his pleasure.
Seven trumpets ] To be sounded several times, to show that God suffereth not his whole wrath to arise at once against his creatures, but piecemeal and by degrees; proving if peradventure they will repent and recover out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
3 And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.
Ver. 3. And another angel ] An angel after another manner; not by nature, but by office. Christ, the Angel of the covenant. For I cannot be of his mind (Mr Brightman) who makes this angel to be Constantine; the odours given him, to be the power of calling the council; the golden altar, Christ in the midst of this holy assembly; the thick cloud of odours, the whole matter brought most happily to effect; which yet is a pious interpretation.
Much incense ] The merit of his own precious passion, Hebrews 9:24 ; Hebrews 13:5 .
Upon the golden altar ] viz. Himself, asRevelation 6:9; Revelation 6:9 .
4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
Ver. 4. The smoke of the incense ] The saints’ prayers perfumed with Christ’s odours ascended, that is, were highly accepted in heaven, Acts 10:4 ; Exodus 3:9 , as well appeared by the answer they had here in the next verse. The Church is said to ascend out of the wilderness of this world with pillars of smoke, Song of Solomon 3:6 . Elationibus fumi, with raised affections, and with strong supplications, wherein how many sweet spices are burned together by the fire of faith, as humility, love, &c. All which would stink worse in God’s nostrils than the onions and garlic of Egypt, did not Christ perfume and present them.
5 And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.
Ver. 5. And filled it with the fire of the altar ] Fire, in token of fierce indignation, and from the altar; for Christ came to send fire on the earth, Luke 12:49 ; fire and sword, Matthew 12:34 ; through men’s singular corruption and obstinace in not stooping to the sceptre of this kingdom. Hence fire and brimstone, storm and tempest, a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries, Hebrews 10:27 . From the same altar, Christ, prayers go up, vengeance comes down.
6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
Ver. 6. Prepared themselves ] Having got sign, as it were, by that which Christ did in the former verse, they set to in order to sound their trumpets.
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.
Ver. 7. Hail and fire mingled with blood ] Instead of the fire of love (saith Mr Forbes) mixed with the sweet rain of wholesome doctrine and spirit of Christian lenity, the fire of contention and frosty hailstones of destruction ruled all. Yea, so far herein were the bishops carried one against another, as it is monstrous what malice, falsehood, and cruelty they practised, especially in the time of Constans, Constantius, and Valens, the Arian emperors.
And the third part of trees ] Men of mark.
And all green grass ] Meaner men.
Were burnt up ] Were tainted with errors and heresies, whereof this age was so fertile and full that (as Jerome speaketh) it was a witty thing to be a right believer.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
Ver. 8. A great mountain ] Some notable heresiarch, possibly Pelagius, a monk of Bangor, Morgan by name, that is, in the Welsh tongue, a seaman. This Morgan travelling beyond sea to spread his heresy, called himself Pelagius, by a Greek word of the same signification; because it sounded better in the ears of foreign nations. Hence Augustine, Quid eo pelago (saith he) vult mergi Pelagius, unde per petram liberatus est Petras? (Lib. i. de Grat. Christ. advers. Pelag.)
9 And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
Ver. 9. And the third part ] Heresy as a gangrene spreads and kills; as the leprosy in the head, it renders a man utterly unclean, Leviticus 13:44 . So cunning are some seducers, and so close in the conveyance of their collusion, that if possible the very elect may be deceived.
And the third part of the ships were destroyed ] That is, of the Churches, even those that were planted by the apostles themselves, those principal pilots. Howbeit not all the Churches, but a third part only: when the Church was in the wilderness, when Antichrist most reigned and raged, God did preserve some ships, some fundamental doctrines, and the essence of baptism, and the essence of a true ministry dispensing them; and they, that is, her pastors, fed her there, Revelation 12:6-14 .
" Niteris incassum Christi submergere navem;
Fluctuat, at nunquam mergitur illa ratis. "
10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;
Ver. 10. There fell a great star ] Falling stars were never but meteors. That grand apostate of Rome may well he meant by this blazing, burning comet. He was in falling by degrees from the time of Constantine till Phocas, who sat upon the chair of pestilence.
Burning as it were a lamp ] He seems to allude to that kind of comet that is called Lampadias. (Mede.)
The third part of the rivers ] i.e. Corrupted true doctrine, and perverted the Scriptures with his false glosses.
11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
Ver. 11. Was called Wormwood ] Because himself was in the gall of bitterness, and did embitter others. See Jeremiah 23:15 ; Deuteronomy 29:18 , with Junius’s note there.
12 And 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; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
Ver. 12. And the third part of the sun ] The prelates and patriarchs.
And the third part of the moon ] The inferior church officers.
And the third part of the stars ] The community of Christians. All began to be spread over with gross ignorance, not only of heavenly truths, but of human sciences, which are here called the night in comparison of gospel light. Gregory the Great (thought to be that angel mentioned in the next verse), though better than any who succeeded him in the Popedom, calling himself the servant of God’s servants, and carrying himself modestly in the days of Mauritius the emperor, yet when Mauritius was slain by the traitor Phocas, how basely did he claw the traitor, and collogue with him; commending to his care the Church of Rome and often minding him of Peter’s primacy, and of that speech of our Saviour, "Thou art Peter," &c. for no other end but that he might enlarge his jurisdiction over all Churches, by the favour of that parricide?
And the day shone not ] It was a gloomy and dismal day with the purer Church of Christ.
13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
Ver. 13. And I beheld and heard an angel ] αγγελου αετου , or, an eagle, as some copies read it. See Trapp on " Rev 8:12 " Gregory the Great seems to be pointed at, who is said to be the worst of all the popes that went before him, and the best of those that came after him. Hence he is brought in flying between heaven and earth. And that he cried with a loud voice; pointing at and painting out that to be Antichrist that should challenge to himself the title of universal bishop, and had a host of priests ready to follow him. Hic prope est, et in foribus, said he, and he said right; for his immediate successor, Boniface III, fulfilled the same that he had foretold.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 8". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29