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Bible Commentaries

Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Revelation 8

The vision runs parallel with that of the 7 seals and concerns judgment of the world. Both these visions present the same fact of judgment but from different standpoints. The judgments presented in the two visions of the 7 seals and of the 7 trumpets are the inevitable outcome of man’s own sin. Man’s own actions creates the consequences of war, famine, etc. of the 7 seal judgments. This vision of the 7 trumpets shows God acting in these judgments not to punish men but yearning to bring man to repentance by His mercy displayed even in the judgments which man brings upon himself by his own sins.

II. MEDITATION-Revelation 8:2; Revelation 9:21; Revelation 11:14-19

As we have said in our previous notes we are not to think of the judgments of these seven trumpets as following AFTER the events described in the seven seals of chapter 6. Rather the seven trumpet judgments are looking at the same events from a different viewpoint. Man’s own sin brings judgment. This vision shows us God acting in those same judgments NOT TO PUNISH MEN BUT TO LIMIT THE JUDGMENTS TO one third of their natural severity. In His mercy God seeks to win men to repentance.

Note that the seven trumpet judgments are introduced in verses 2-5 by THE PRAYERS OF CHRISTIANS. Surely these are introduced to teach Christians to pray for the world. When will Christians all realize that the best thing we can do for the world is to pray for it?

We notice too in these verses that WHAT GOES UP from THE EARTH AS PRAYER RETURNS AS FIRE FROM HEAVEN. It is a remarkable fact that in the midst of the rushing movement of the book of Revelation John always finds time to set each experience in perspective. By prayer, by worship Christians gain perspective. Great events begin in prayer.

We also observe that the woes and judgments of the seven trumpets closely resemble the plagues in Egypt which are described in Exodus chapters 7-11.

Verse 1

7. The Seventh Seal--Revelation 8:1 --SILENCE IN HEAVEN

8:1 "When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was SILENCE IN HEAVEN FOR ABOUT HALF AN HOUR"

The opening of the seventh seal is followed by ’silence’--What does this mean?

Much of human history has been revealed in the opening of the six seals. These 6 seals have revealed that before the final coming of Christ there will be evangelism, war, famine, death, persecution and the fall of earthly governments--much of history has now been revealed. BUT NOT ALL. All of God’s purposes in human history are NOT REVEALED. The seventh seal is "SILENCE IN HEAVEN."

So, the purposes of God are not to be fully revealed to us here on earth.

God’s final purposes are not revealed HERE but HEREAFTER. The complete understanding of the book of God’s purposes is not for us in this present life but in the life to come, "when we shall no longer see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face. No longer only know in part but then even as we are known."

"There was silence in heaven for ABOUT HALF AN HOUR"--this is not a literal "half an hour" of time.

In the earlier notes we referred to Jesus’ words about "MINE HOUR" as His expression for the time of ACTION and JUDGMENT. Perhaps in John’s book of symbols HALF of anything suggests it is a symbol of A BROKEN, or INTERRUPTED PERIOD. "The silence in heaven for about half an hour suggests that the moment of God’s action and judgment is interrupted and delayed.

"THERE WAS SILENCE IN HEAVEN." It is so in the revelation of John’s book. By careful study we can learn much, but we need to be humble enough to realize that in this life we shall never be able to understand it all. Again and again we come to places and experiences where we cannot know--and there is silence! Much as John was allowed to see of God’s purposes in the opening of the sealed book there is yet a limit to the knowledge God allows us. His divine voice says "Thus far and no further." Full knowledge is not ours in this life. There is a limit, and beyond it SILENCE. The time of our Lord’s final coming is not told us. There is silence. That moment is known only to God. It is His secret--there is SILENCE.

When we read the 6 signs of the opening of the 6 seals of Revelation chapter 6 and observe that all of these signs are around us today we are apt then to make the terrible mistake of fixing a date for the final coming of Christ. For we observe that if Christ should come today not one of the things revealed in the opening of the 6 seals would remain unfulfilled. But we are warned by the seventh seal of SILENCE IN HEAVEN against fixing a date for Christ’s final coming. It is not given to men on earth to know that day or hour. That is God’s secret. Let us learn to be humble enough to leave it to God.

The sad story of William Miller illustrates the foolishness of men seeking to be wiser than John in Revelation 8:1 by speaking when God Himself is silent--by fixing the date of Christ’s final coming and of the end of history.

William Miller was 50 years of age at his conversion when he began reading the Bible, he linked Revelation 6:1-17 and Revelation 8:1 with Daniel 8:14 and fixed the date of the return of Christ and of the end of the world at October 22, 1843 (by counting the 2,300 days of Daniel 8:14 as years).

When the 22nd of October, 1843 passed with no end to the world it was discovered that a mistake had been made in calculation by one year. So his followers gathered again and waited on October 22, 1844. Again the world did not end. Then Hiram Edson, one of William Miller’s followers, on the next day, October 23, 1844 saw Christ at the altar cleansing the sanctuary in heaven. So, as this vision occurred on a seventh day a new denomination called "Seventh-day Adventism" was created. Their error in interpretation they said was only in the place to which Christ came. The event illustrates the foolishness of men seeking to be wiser than our God Himself who said that no man knows the hour of His return or of the end of the world. Regarding the date of Christ’s final coming and end of the world the seventh seal records--"THERE IS SILENCE IN HEAVEN." That silence in heaven of the seventh seal reminds us of Jesus’ word in Matthew 24:36 "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Martin Luther said that "That hour God keeps as His secret in order that we may keep EVERY hour of our life in such a way that at whatever hour our Lord returns we shall be ready."

One further point!

DOES THE SILENCE IN HEAVEN OF THE SEVENTH SEAL TELL US HUMANS OF OUR OWN SPIRITUAL NEEDS?

Even in heaven there is need of silence sometimes. What far greater need there is for periods of silence in this present life where there is so much noise and bustle and din!

We need to Create that silence in God’s presence in which we can lift up our hearts "to be still, and to know God." We need as church members to take time and effort to get away from the noise of our daily business and material affairs for quiet devotion--to read God’s Word--to obey the command of Psalms 46:10. "Be still and know that I am God." "Take time to be holy"--as our hymn reminds us.

Neither in heaven nor on earth should we allow the rush and noise of overwhelming events to fill all our thought. Times of quiet as well as times of action go to snake a balanced life. Just as the heart needs the perfect rhythm of beat--rest, beat--rest, to do its work of circulating our life’s blood--so do we need times of quiet rest. There is importance in our understanding that in the book of Revelation SILENCE makes up a significant part of life--a time to meditate, a time of quiet when we ask the profound questions about life and its meaning, when we find new insights of true wisdom. Our thoughts become superficial if we are always on the go of action.

The silence In heaven has immense overtones of wisdom which we may well follow in our own pattern of daily living here on earth.

Verses 2-5

8:2-5

introduces the vision of the 7 trumpets BY THE PRAYERS OF CHRISTIANS. When will all Christians realize that the greatest thing Christians can do for the world IS TO PRAY FOR IT? Many of these prayers have had delayed answers but surely these verses are inserted here to exhort Christians to pray for the world!

Verse 6

Verse 6

Note that the judgments that come on the world are closely similar to those of the plagues in Egypt (Exodus chapters 7-11). And as at the fall of Jericho the seventh trumpet blast heralded the destruction of that city, so it is in Revelation.

Verse 7

1. THE FIRST TRUMPET--verse 7--A Third of the EARTH WAS BURNT UP.

The point is that although man’s sin brings judgment on himself God’s mercy LIMITS the destruction man has inevitably brought on himself. God LIMITS the destruction to one third because He seeks to turn men to repentance.

Verses 8-9

2. THE SECOND TRUMPET--verses 8 and 9--Affects the SEA

Whether John had in mind a particular nation as "the burning mountain which is thrown into the sea and destroyed after it had destroyed other kingdoms I do not know. Nor do I think it wise to speculate as to what nation is meant here.

THE SEA, as we point out in our previous notes is a symbol of the NATIONS ON EARTH.

Verses 10-11

3. THE THIRD TRUMPET--verses 10 and 11--Affects the RIVERS

The STAR which is described as falling from heaven is Satan himself. His star polluted the RIVERS.

To my mind these RIVERS of fresh water are symbols of National Prosperity. As fresh water is a requirement of national health and life--so this third trumpet judgment tells of the EMBITTERING AND POISONING OF THE SPRINGS OF HEALTH AND LIFE. THE SOURCES OF HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY ARE POLLUTED.

Those who drink the water die. Those who try to live without God find that the very sources of ongoing life become contaminated. When men turn to wickedness they have tampered with something much more profound and powerful than they had dreamed. They failed to realize that their godlessness was an attack on the very water supply upon which their life depended. As rivers and springs are essential to health and life--so these are poisoned by godlessness.

In our notes we have suggested that when the educational system becomes polluted, poisoning mental health by misuse of press and other media, we may well be seeing the third trumpet judgment which affects the rivers.

Verse 12

4. THE FOURTH TRUMPET--verse 12--Affects the SUN, MOON AND STARS.

Isaiah refers to the darkening of light as troubled times when men are mixed and confused in mind and unable to see the difference between good and evil. This fourth trumpet judgment is drawn from Exodus 10:21-23 in the plague of darkness.

I understand the symbolism of this fourth trumpet as the darkening of the minds, and understandings, and moral discernment of mankind as being a direct result of man’s own sinfulness, pride and perversity. Modern man seems unable to have light by which to make sane judgments.

The point needs to be made in the fourth trumpet judgment of the darkening of sun, moon and stars that it is man’s own sin which brings this inevitable judgment. These judgments are not the arbitrary acts of God. They are man reaping what he himself has sown. Yet still God acts in mercy to limit to one third the destruction man has brought upon himself.

When we read these four trumpet judgments of Revelation chapter 8 it is like reading the UNDOING of creation.

These trumpet judgments are not at some future time in history. These judgments are going on NOW.

The message of these four trumpets recognizes that these judgments are only what man’s own sin has made inevitable. Yet God limits the destruction to one third in His mercy. Such is the philosophy of life which is part of the Christian message.

The last three trumpets are worse still, and each is called "A WOE."

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Bibliographical Information
Norris, Harold. "Commentary on Revelation 8". "Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/nor/revelation-8.html. 2021.