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

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

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Verses 1-13



Revelation 8:1. Seventh seal.—“The main visions give us more external aspects; the interposed visions show the inner and more spiritual aspects. The main visions give us the trumpet voices of God’s manifold providences, summoning the world to surrender to Him; the subsidiary visions point to the witness and work of the true children of God in this world, and the more secret growth of the Church of Christ.”

Revelation 8:2. Seven angels.—There was a popular Jewish belief in seven special angels as attendant on God (Tob. 12:15). They may be taken as representing the “complete circle of God’s power in judgment.” “Symbols of that complete and varied messenger force which God evermore commands.” Seven trumpets.—“The usual emblems of war and bloodshed; they are emblems of the series of judgments now to be inflicted.” Godet regards the trumpet as “something more than the mere revelation of an event that is to happen in the future; it is a manifestation of Will, which calls for a speedy realisation.”

Revelation 8:3. Altar.—In the Jewish Temple the priest was wont to burn incense, while the people outside were praying (Luke 1:8-11). Offer it with.—Lit. give, or add, it to the prayers. To use a phrase of modern Church life, the prayers are on the altar, and the angel-priest “censes the holy things.”

Revelation 8:4. With the prayers.—Better “for the prayers”; i.e., to ratify and consecrate them.

Revelation 8:5. Cast it.—“The burning incense may denote Christian worship. Then that which was pure worship, if defiled and degraded by human corruptions, becomes the instrument of discord and violence” (compare Exodus 9:8-10). The hot ashes are the token of coming judgments; the ashes fall, to indicate that the judgments are at hand.

Revelation 8:7. First angel.—This is the aggravation of the judgments of the third seal—famine. Blood.—Here coloured rain, which dues sometimes fall, and is regarded as a sure sign of coming agricultural evils.

Revelation 8:8. Second angel sounded.—The sea is smitten; its inhabitants perish; commerce is interrupted. Addition to previous calamity in the ocean sphere. Mountain.—Volcano. Bursting of volcanoes always affects the sea and shipping. Volcanoes are almost always near the sea.

Revelation 8:10. Third angel sounded.—See the fourth seal. Star.—Compare what we call shooting stars. Fatal results follow from the defilement of the waters men drink. Illustrate how civilisation tends to corrupt rivers, and springs, and induce pestilential disease. A terrible mortality seizes mankind.

Revelation 8:12. Fourth angel.—Judgment affecting the atmosphere. Note how dependent human health is on atmospheric conditions. (Illustrate by the plague of darkness in Egypt, Exodus 10:21-23.) The moral influence of eclipses, and other sky-portents, on the ancient mind must be taken into full account. These various plagues need not be understood in any allegorical sense; they represent the various distresses attendant (partly) on the sins of advancing civilisation, in the very midst of which, and even suffering under which, the Church of Christ has to live and labour.

Revelation 8:13. Angel.—Or eagle. This is introductory to the last three, or woe, trumpets. The three last trumpets are called “the three woes.” The difference between the first four trumpets and three last appears to be this: the first concern the sphere of nature, the last the sphere of humanity. This eagle-angel’s sight of woes that were coming suggests the “eagle-like judgments which fall upon the carcase of dead nations, or a dead Society.”


Judgments Affecting Nature.—The servants of God being now secure against impending destruction, all things appear to be in readiness for the execution of justice upon the persecutors of the Church. One seal, and one only, remains to be broken of the volume in which their destiny is inscribed; and it seems as if this must introduce the consummation. It is evident that such is represented to be the impression on the great multitude who encircle the throne of God. They stand in silent and awful expectation of the sequel which must take place when that seal is broken. But the Lord is “slow to anger and of great mercy, not willing that any should perish, but that all should repent and be saved.” “Judgment is His strange work,” and delay does not prove that any uncertainty attends the final event. Besides, it had already been declared (Revelation 6:11), that some delay would take place until more martyrdoms should be accomplished. Here, then, the writer introduces various circumstances by which this is aptly brought about. The breaking of the last seal, instead of presenting a single symbol of a single event, is followed by a new series of events which is disparted into seven gradations, or stages, of accomplishment; and these are presented as becoming gradually more and more annoying and destructive to the enemies of the Church. Trumpets, the usual emblems of war and bloodshed, are chosen as emblems of the series of judgments now to be inflicted. The first four trumpets affect the earth, the sea, the rivers with the springs, and the heavens. The remaining three indicate judgments that fall more immediately upon man. The present chapter comprises the first four trumpets, and the evils which they introduce occur in the order already named. But before any of the trumpets are sounded, symbols are presented in heaven of the judgments about to take place. The supplication of the saints for the relief of the Church comes up before God, along with the incense which is presented before His throne; and the answer which will be made to these supplications is symbolised by the action of an angel, who casts fire down upon the earth, which calls forth thunder, lightning, and earthquake, all indicative of future destruction to the enemies of the Church.—Moses Stuart.


Revelation 8:1. The Way to Rest is Through Trouble.—We reach, in the seventh seal, the eternal quiet of God’s presence. Through a series of visions we have been shown that the way to rest is not easy, that we must be prepared to see the great features of earth’s troubles remain till the close, and that the children of God must, through tribulation, and even persecution, enter the kingdom of God’s peace. The seals answer the question, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom?” But the kingdom will be restored. The Church may find her way a way of difficulty, delay, danger; but it will be a way to triumph. The kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of the Lord. Let the people of God go forward; let their prayers be set forth as incense; let them blow the trumpet, and summon men to repentance. They are not alone; the Lord still fights for His Israel. This is the assurance which we gather from the trumpets. In all the wondrous providences which the history of the earth discloses, we may hear the trumpet-voice which heralds the kingdom of Christ, to which the Church is bearing constant and sufficient witness (Revelation 11:3-4). The seals close with peace; the trumpets close appropriately with victory (Revelation 11:15). The visions are not scenes of events which chronologically succeed one another. The one set shows us the way through trouble to rest; the other shows us the way through conflict to triumph: the one set shows us the troubles which befall the Church because of the world; the other shows us the troubles which fall on the world because the Church advances to the conquest of the world, as Israel to the possession of the land of promise.—Bishop Boyd Carpenter.

Silence in Heaven.

This silence was—
I. Wonderful.—Wonderful, considering—

1. The multitude present; they must have been under perfect control.
2. Their feelings. Joy and wonder yearned to express themselves.

II. Instructive.—

1. Nothing done in haste, or in the heat of excitement.
2. Time for thought furnished to both friends and foes of God.
3. The shortness of the silence a sign that the work of God is not long delaying; the praises of saints are only temporarily interrupted.—Anon.


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Revelation 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/revelation-8.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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