The Seventh Seal Opened:
Introduction to the Trumpets
The last of the seven seals is now opened (v. 1) and there is silence in heaven for about half an hour before John sees seven trumpets given to seven angels.
The seals have been only the beginning of God's working behind the scenes in reference to judgment. The trumpets indicate a ringing, declared testimony to all the world. The silence first shows the calm, quiet deliberation that will do nothing in undue haste. Also, before the angels sound their trumpets, they "stood before God" (v.2). They must first be in God's presence in order to rightly serve Him.
There is further preparation: another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer. Much incense was given him to add to the prayers of all saints, offered upon the golden altar (v. 3). This is not the altar of burnt offering, but of incense (as pictured in the tabernacle-Exodus 30:1-10), indicating the worship of redeemed saints of God. The angel here is Christ Himself, for He acts as priest, presenting the prayers of saints as a sweet odor to God, adding to them a further abundance of incense. More than this: He also fills the censer with fire from the altar and casts it upon the earth (v. 5). No priest of the line of Aaron was ever called upon to do such a thing. The prayers of saints in this case are those of the suffering people of God on earth (and martyrs also-Revelation 6:9-11), pleading for God's intervention in judgment. The casting of the censer on the earth indicates the beginning of God's answer to such pleading prayers, for this results in "noises, thunderings, lightnings and an earthquake."
The First Trumpet
The prior preparation being complete, the angels now begin the sounding of the trumpets. The first trumpet call is followed by hail and fire mingled with blood (v. 7). At this point the middle of Daniel's seventieth week is not yet reached, but "a third part" of trees and green grass are affected, the trees speaking of man's self-importance and the green grass of prosperity.
What is meant by the third part? When John wrote, the Roman world was divided into three parts-the eastern, the central and the western. It seems likely that verse 7 refers to the empire under its seventh "head" or leader, the Beast of Revelation 13:1-10, and therefore the western third. This empire is seen as a conquering power under the first seal, but here as afflicted by God.
The Second Trumpet
This seventh head is evidently contemplated in verse 8 at the sounding of the second trumpet. A great mountain speaks of a great governing power (cf. Jeremiah 51:24-25), while burning with fire intimates a fearsome character of oppression. Thrown into the sea speaks of God's own sovereign power inflicting this scourge upon the nations (the sea of the Gentiles). The waters of the sea speak of "peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues" (Revelation 17:15). The nations want a champion, and God allows them the type of man they desire, whom they will find by experience to be an enemy of all righteousness. The third part is again affected, for the third part of the sea became blood which signifies the stagnation of death, a death that is surely much worse than natural.
The dying of a third part of creatures in the sea indicates that the people of this Western Empire, by allegiance to the Beast and his monstrous claim of divine titles, become coldly dead to the claims of God. Men become "twice dead" (Judges 1:12) -first by the fact of their sinful nature (Ephesians 2:1), second by apostasy, the cold refusal of God, even though not physically dead. (See Revelation 16:3.) Trade and commerce also will be affected as the destruction of the third part of ships infers.
The Third Trumpet
With the sounding of the third trumpet a great star falls out of heaven (v. 10). In Revelation 6:13 we saw that falling stars indicate a general apostasy of those who have professed subjection to heaven's authority. They give this up in favor of earthly honor and advantage. This great star is the leader of them all, the Jewish Antichrist, called the man of sin and the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
He is given other names also, descriptive of his character. He will first appear to be a godly Jew, going into the house of God together with others who have deep respect for the God of Israel (Psalms 55:11-14). Then gaining a place of prominence by means of this subterfuge, he will turn deliberately against Israel's God and take his seat in the temple of God in Jerusalem, claiming honor that rightly belongs to God alone (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). His pretense of giving great spiritual light accounts for the expression, "burning like a torch," not actually a lamp, but simulating one. Again it is the western Roman earth (the third part) that is affected, the rivers and fountains of waters speaking of the sources of spiritual refreshment.
To this man's many names is added another here: "Wormwood," speaking of that which is harsh and embittering, for he turns the waters bitter. He corrupts the truth of God by his poisonous doctrine (1 John 2:22). By this many die; not physically, but by apostasy they become dead to any recognition of the living God.
The Fourth Trumpet
The fourth angel sounds his trumpet (v. 12) and the third part of the sun, the moon and the stars are smitten: the third part of each is darkened so as not to shine. Of course this cannot be literal. The sun (which is the supreme source of light to the earth) speaks of the light of the glory of God. Therefore this darkening speaks of people being plunged into the darkness of atheism, not seeing the sun. They become impervious even to the reflected light of the moon and the stars. The light of heavenly testimony is eliminated in all the kingdom of the beast.
At this point an angel flies through the midst of heaven, emphasizing with clarion voice the woeful solemnity of the last three trumpets which are about to sound (v. 13). The reason is clear: with the fifth trumpet we come to the middle of Daniel's seventieth week and "the Great Tribulation" follows. It is at this time that wickedness rises to the height of its most arrogant defiance of God.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Revelation 8". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany