Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, May 30th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 8

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

A. Here is real drama. You know that something important is about to happen. But, you wait. You keep waiting for 10, 15, 25 minutes. Still waiting. The drama is building.

B. The silence (calm and quite) is a sharp contrast to the loud persecution and chaos on earth.

C. If the 6 th seal is the Second Coming, what is expected in the 7 th seal? This seal must deal with eternity.

D. Some believe that the silence is to emphasize that we are in the presence of God. Hab_2:20 , “The Lord is in His holy temple: Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” We are now entering the presence of God. In awe, we stand in silence.

E. Others, I among them, believe that the silence indicates that God does not do anything rashly. Even when He is ready to destroy the world, He waits calmly. This is a picture of the longsuffering, endurance and patience of our God. God will not end this world out of any anger of the moment. Count to 10 is good advice when we are angry. God waited 30 minutes, in silence, to assure everyone that this was His determined will and not His momentary wrath.

Verse 2

2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.

A. After the half hour of silence, there appear seven angels.

B. Each angel has a trumpet. Out of the 7 th seal comes the introduction to the sounding of the seven trumpets.

C. Trumpets were used to command and to warn. The trumpet was their “early warning system” at a time of attack or storm. Any threat to the peace and safety of the people was announced by the sounding of trumpets.

D. Trumpets were also used to pre-announce (call attention to) an announcement. For example, when a king was entering the city, the trumpet would sound. The trumpet would let all know that the king was coming to make an announcement.

Verses 3-4

3 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.

A, Here is much symbolism borrowed from the Law of Moses. The altar, the incense, the golden censer, and the placement of the altar of incense are taken from the Old Testament.

B. John explains some of the symbols here. The smoke of the incense represents the prayers of the saints. The smoke from the incense altar in the Jewish temple, which sat just outside the veil, sent smoke through the veil to the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat and the presence of God. So the prayers of these hurting saints are passing through the veil and into the presence of God.

C. Message: God hears your cry. God is aware of your needs. God hears your prayers.

Verse 5

5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

A. The angel took the censer filled with fire and threw it down on the earth. The earth here represents the wickedness of evil men who are opposed to God. (See 12:12, 16; 13:11; 16:2) The angel is casting fire on those who have been unfaithful to God.

B. The earthquake depicts the fear and shaking of those who are fighting against the will of God.

C. The noises, thunder and lightening are pictured as coming from the throne of God. (4:5)

D. This verse ends the opening of the seven seals. We now move to the sounding (warning) of the seven trumpets.

Verse 6

6 So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

A. The angels are ready to sound their trumpets one at a time.

B. The trumpets were used to announce great events and warn of danger. I believe the trumpets about to be sounded are sending a signal of danger and warning.

SpeSpecial note:

Before we begin to discuss the sounding of the seven trumpets, we must understand the term “third part of man” that is used throughout this section of Revelation.

Allow me to quote here from Woodruff. “The key to interpreting this series of seven trumpets lies in understanding the symbolic meaning of the “third part of man.” Therefore, we must determine the descriptive meaning of the fraction “1/3.” In order to do this, we must consider a few passages which have a bearing on its meaning.” (1, 137)

Stay with me for few minutes. In Rev_9:4 the locusts are instructed not to hurt “any green thing,” but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (non-Christians). Therefore, “any green thing,” must mean Christians. The locusts were commanded not to hurt Christians.

Any plant, which is alive and growing, must be colored green. However, if we apply this meaning to Rev_8:7 , Christians would be destroyed.

Here is my conclusion: “Any green thing” represents the spiritual part of man’s being. Man has two parts - physical and spiritual. One part is physical - represented by the number four - of the earth and material. The other part is spiritual - represented by the number three - of the divine, deity and trinity.

Therefore, the fractions are symbolic. Fractions mean a part of the whole, as opposed to the entire. The fraction “one-fourth” means a part of the material and physical. The fraction “one-third” means a part of the spiritual.

Quoting Woodruff again, “The “third part of man” is used throughout the trumpet series. Therefore, the warnings, which are sounded by these trumpets, are to prepare man so he will not lose his spiritual part. This would condemn his soul to hell. In other words, they describe events taking place during the Christian dispensation which affect the spiritual part of man.” (1, 137-138)

Verse 7

7 The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

A. The first four trumpets warn of spiritual testing and trials.

B. Just as the seals warned of physical harm that could come to our bodies, the trumpets are going to warn of things that could destroy the spiritual part of man.

C. The color green is not used to distinguish living from dead. It is used to distinguish spiritual life from spiritual death. Plants need to be green, because chlorophyll is necessary for the plant to live and produce fruit. Christians, who are green, are filled with what is necessary for spiritual life and production of fruit.

D. Trees and green grass represent those who are alive spiritually, Christians.

E. The hail and fire show us that Christians will suffer persecution, trials, pain and death because of their faith. The expression, “mingled with blood” shows that some of this persecution will be so harsh that lives will be lost.

F. Remember, the third part teaches us that even Christians are able to lose their spiritual life and be lost because of persecution.

G. The 1 st trumpet warns us that we can deny the faith and lose our spiritual life.

Verse 8

8 Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.

A. The symbol of water is shown to represent people in 17:1 and 15. John is not concerned about the environment and pollution of our water in this text. He is apprehensive about the masses of people who are living on this earth.

B. The severe persecution in the first century was causing many people to deny their faith and lose their spiritual life.

C. The 2 nd trumpet warns us that people of all ages can, in time of hardship, lose their spiritual life by giving in to the persecution, regardless of how severe it might be.

Verse 9

9 And a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

A. The part of man, which is spiritual (soul or spirit), is destroyed. This is not saying that 33% of all Christians will die. This is a warning that yielding to the persecution can cost you your spiritual life with God.

B. What is the meaning of the “ships” mentioned here? Listen to Paul as the literal ship taking him to Rome was about to sink. “Except these abide in the ship, you cannot be saved.” ( Act_27:30-31 ) The spiritual parallel is that we must remain in the ship of believers, in the church, the ship of Zion, if we expect to be saved. Jumping overboard or abandoning ship will result in our spiritual death.

Verses 10-11

10 Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter.

A. There are two symbols which must be understood here:

1. The star, named Wormwood

2. The rivers, waters and fountains.

B. God is the fountain of living waters. ( Jer_2:13 ) Jesus promised that he would provide living waters to those who believe his teachings. ( Joh_7:38 ) The rivers and fountains represent the teachings of those who direct the spiritual lives of people here on earth.

C. Wormwood is bitter. ( Pro_5:4 ) These waters (teachings) are made bitter. False teachings will cause many to die, not physical, but spiritual death. If you follow these false teachers you will lose your spiritual life.

D. The 3 rd trumpet warns that if you abandon the truth for false teachings, you will suffer spiritual death. Following a false teacher is just as deadly as denying the faith in the face of persecution.

Verse 12

12 Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.

A. Here the trumpet sounds and all of our sources of light on the earth are darkened.

B. The trumpet warns that there will be times when there is no one willing to stand and preach the light of the gospel.

C. There was a period in our history, called the Dark Ages, in which the Bible was hidden. There was no one to give the light of God to a dark world. There will be times in various centuries and in various places, where the spiritual light will be darkened. Men will be forbidden to preach the gospel of God.

D. There are places today, China and Laos, for example, where the gospel is very dark. There is no light to shine in the hearts of these nations. Until 1992 the great nation of Russia was dark.

E. Could it happen here? Yes. We do not know what the future holds. We do not know how our laws regarding freedom of religion will be interpreted and enforced. Could it become illegal to preach against homosexuality? Could you be arrested for trying to help a woman not abort a baby? Could you be punished for bringing a Bible into a public school classroom? Could you be jailed for having a group Bible study in your home? [The answer to all the above questions is - YES. Not only is such possible, it has already happened in some places. It is not a stretch of our imagination to see that such could happen on a wider scale.]

F. The 4 th trumpet warns that our light must shine and no man should darken our zeal and willingness to spread the light of the gospel to the world. When you allow your light to go out or be snuffed out, you will die spiritually.

Verse 13

13 And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

A. An eagle flies through the heavens and says, in effect, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

B. If you think these four warning are bad, just wait. It gets worse.

C. This verse makes it clear that the warnings are for those on earth.

D. This verse also marks a division between the first four and the next three. There were four seals opened, then three more. Here four trumpets have sounded. Now you are about to hear the warning of three more.

E. The first four trumpets warned Christians that they could lose their spiritual life. 1/3 would be hurt. Some will lose their spiritual life.

F. The trumpets that follow will warn those who are not Christians. See 9:4. God commanded not to harm those who have the seal of God. Those without the seal of God (non-Christians) will be harmed if they fail to heed the warning of these last three trumpets.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Revelation 8". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/revelation-8.html. 2021.
 
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