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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 8

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Introduction

Revelation 8:1-21

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4NKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Seventh Seal and the Golden CenserSeventh Seal: Prelude to the Seven TrumpetsThe Seventh SealThe Seventh SealThe Seventh Seal
Revelation 8:1-2Revelation 8:1-6Revelation 8:1-2Revelation 8:1-2Revelation 8:1
The Prayers of the Saints Bring the Coming of the Great Day Nearer
Revelation 8:2-5
Revelation 8:3-5Revelation 8:3-5Revelation 8:3-5
The TrumpetsThe First Six TrumpetsThe TrumpetsThe First Four Trumpets
Revelation 8:6The First Six TrumpetsRevelation 8:6Revelation 8:6Revelation 8:6-12
Revelation 8:7Revelation 8:7Revelation 8:7Revelation 8:7
Second Trumpet: The Seal Struck
Revelation 8:8-9Revelation 8:8-9Revelation 8:8-9Revelation 8:8-9
Third Trumpet: The Waters Struck
Revelation 8:10-11Revelation 8:10-11Revelation 8:10-11Revelation 8:10-11
Fourth Trumpet: The Heavens Struck
Revelation 8:12Revelation 8:12Revelation 8:12Revelation 8:12
Revelation 8:13-6Revelation 8:13Revelation 8:13Revelation 8:13Revelation 8:13
Fifth Trumpet: The Locusts from the Bottomless PitThe Plague of Demonic LocustsThe Fifth Trumpet
Revelation 9:1-12Revelation 9:1-6Revelation 9:1-6Revelation 9:1-6
Revelation 9:7-11Revelation 9:7-11Revelation 9:7-11Revelation 9:7-11
Revelation 9:12Sixth Trumpet: The Angel from the EuphratesRevelation 9:12Revelation 9:12Revelation 9:12
Revelation 9:13-19Revelation 9:13-21Revelation 9:13-19Revelation 9:13-19Revelation 9:13-21
Revelation 9:20-21Revelation 9:20-21Revelation 9:20-21

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO Revelation 8:1-21

A. As the seven trumpets proceed out of the seventh seal, the question is, "what is the relationship between the trumpets, the seals, and the bowls?" There is a partial, if not complete, recapitulation. They cover the same time period. They are built on the same pattern and proceed out of each other. A partial recapitulation theory seems to have first been advanced in the third century by Victorinus of Pettau (see The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, pp. 344-360). He only mentions a parallel relationship between the trumpets and bowls. When one compares the three, they seem to be apocalyptic, progressively destructive metaphors of the same eschatological period. It is quite possible that as the sixth seal (cf. Revelation 6:12-17) brings us up to the end, the seven trumpets (cf. Revelation 11:15-19) and seven bowls (cf. Revelation 16:17-21) describe the events of the end.

B. From where does John draw his imagery for these apocalyptic visions? There are several theories:

1. There are allusions to several OT passages, particularly in chapters 8 and 9, to the plagues of Egypt and to the locust invasion of Joel 2:0. As always in Revelation, the imagery of Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah form the basic background.

2. Jewish intertestamental apocalyptic writings, like I Enoch. I Enoch was widely known in first century Judaism, as well as in the church and was alluded to by NT authors (cf. 2 Peter 2:0 and Jude).

3. The historical setting of the first century, particularly Roman Emperor worship and local persecution.

The option we choose as the major source of imagery will determine how we interpret these two chapters. If we see this against the background of Imperial Rome, we will fit it into Roman history (preterist). If we see it against Jewish apocalyptic language, we will be more likely to interpret it as symbolic (idealist). If we see it against OT prophecies, we will project it into an end-time Jewish setting (futurist).

C. These two chapters describe an incrementally intensifying judgment on unbelievers. However, it must be emphasized that God brings judgment on them for the purpose of their redemption (cf. Revelation 9:20-21; Revelation 14:7; Revelation 16:9, Revelation 16:11). Therefore, they function like the covenantal curses of Deuteronomy 27-29.

D. As in previous chapters, the symbolism is so vague that what some commentators ascribe to Christ, some ascribe to Satan. With that kind of fluidity of symbolism, dogmatism is totally inappropriate. Interpreters must summarize the complete vision in one central truth. This central truth should guide the interpretation of the details and remain the central theological issue to be emphasized!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Where are we to find the source of the imagery of these chapters: (1) the OT; (2) Jewish apocalyptic literature; or (3) historical events of the Roman Empire?

2. Do these events refer to (1) the first century, (2) every century, or (3) the future?

3. Are these chapters meant to be taken literally or apocalyptically?

4. What is the major thrust of chapters 8-9?

5. How are the seven seals and the seven trumpets related in chapters 8 and 9?

6. Why will there be increased angelic and demonic activity before the Second Coming?

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 8:1-2 1When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2And I saw the seven angels who stand before God. And seven trumpets were given to them.

Revelation 8:1 "When the Lamb broke the seventh seal" Jesus is the One who opens the seventh seal, but from this point on angels will be involved in announcing the seven trumpets and later the seven bowls.

"there was silence in heaven for about half an hour" There have been several theories connected with this silence. The rabbis relate it to a period of silence to let the prayers of the saints be heard

1. some relate it to the book of II Esdras 7:29-31, where the silence is the beginning of the New Age

2. others relate it to several OT passages where humans are to be silent in the coming presence of God (cf. Habakkuk 2:20; Zephaniah 1:7; Zechariah 2:13)

3. some relate it to dramatic effect for the coming intense judgment on unbelievers

4. Victorinus related it to the beginning of eternity

Revelation 8:2 "and I saw the seven angels who stand before God" It is interesting that the definite article appears, "the seven angels." In rabbinical Judaism the seven angels of the presence are named in Tobit Revelation 12:15; Jubilees 1:27,29; Revelation 2:1-2, Revelation 2:18; and I Enoch 20:1-7. They are Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael or Sariel, Gabriel, and Remiel. Others see this phrase as related to the Messiah (paralleled to "the Angel of His Presence") in Isaiah 63:9 or to judgment on those who rebel and grieve the Holy Spirit (cf. Isaiah 63:10). The Exodus connection may be seen in the angel in Exodus 23:20-23; Exodus 33:12-16.

"seven trumpets were given to them" There are seven angels to correspond to the seven trumpets (cf. Revelation 8:6). In the OT trumpets were often used to communicate to God's people, either religiously or militarily (cf. Exodus 19:16; Numbers 10:1-10; Isaiah 27:13; Jeremiah 4:5-9; Joel 2:1; Zephaniah 1:16; Zechariah 9:14; II Esdras 6:23, see Special Topic at Revelation 1:10). In the NT a trumpet will announce the Second Coming of Christ (cf. Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Verses 3-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 8:3-5 3Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand. 5Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

Revelation 8:3 "Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer" This text and Revelation 5:8 have been used to promote the rabbinical theological concept that angels are the bearers of prayers to God. The Bible is silent on how to interpret this type of detail. These symbolic passages should not be used to define speculative theological details. This is a vision and not meant to define the role of certain angels. It does affirm that the prayers of the saints do affect God.

The altar has been identified as either the incense altar before the veil in the Holy Place (cf. Exodus 30:1-10) or the altar of sacrifice (cf. Revelation 8:5; Revelation 9:13). However, this vision is not the earthly Tabernacle or Temple in Jerusalem, but the throne room of God in heaven (cf. Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:11, Hebrews 9:24). The incense altar fits this context best.

"the prayers of all the saints" Exactly which group of saints this represents is uncertain, but this does show that God knows and responds to the needs of His people (cf. Exodus 3:7). Incense was a symbol of prayer (cf. Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8) because the smoke went up and disappeared from the visible realm to the invisible realm.

For "saints" see SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS at Revelation 5:8.

Revelation 8:4 Throughout the book of Leviticus incense arose to God's presence, therefore, incense came to represent the prayers of God's people.

Revelation 8:5 "the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth" This is an allusion to Ezekiel 10:2. Coals for the incense altar before the veil would have originally been taken from the altar of sacrifice at the front of the Tabernacle (cf. Revelation 9:13; Leviticus 16:11-13). These are Tabernacle symbols whose meaning is fluid. The key theological thought is that this is occurring before God in heaven.

"and there followed peals of thunder" These types of physical phenomenon are often associated with YHWH's presence (cf. Revelation 4:5; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 16:18; Exodus 19:16-19; Psalms 18:10-13).

Verse 6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 8:6 6And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.

Revelation 8:1-6 These verses represent the actions during the period of silence.

Verse 7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 8:7 7The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

Revelation 8:7 "and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood" Much of the imagery is drawn from the Egyptian plagues. This passage is an allusion to Exodus 9:24. It is also possible that this is taken from Ezekiel 38:22, the overthrow of Gog's invading army.

"and a third of the earth was burned up" This limited, but substantive, percentage is mentioned quite often in the next few chapters (cf. Revelation 8:7-8, Revelation 8:9, Revelation 8:10, Revelation 8:11, Revelation 8:12; Revelation 9:15, Revelation 9:18; Revelation 12:4). The second series of judgments is more intense than the first (cf. Revelation 6:8, where one quarter is mentioned). YHWH is still attempting to reach sinful mankind by means of physical plagues (cf. Exodus 7-11; Deuteronomy 28-29), but they would not respond in repentance and faith!

"and all the green grass was burned up" This must refer to the complete destruction of the green grass within the one-third area, because green grass is protected in Revelation 9:4.

Verses 8-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 8:8-9 8The 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, 9and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.

Revelation 8:8 "like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea" Once again the issue is the source of John's imagery Roman, Jewish inter-biblical, or OT.

1. If it is the OT, then Psalms 46:2 or Exodus 7:20-21 is the reference.

2. If Jewish apocalyptic, then the reference is I Enoch 18:13-16 or possibly the Sibylline Oracles 5:158.

3. If Roman then possibly it is a historical allusion to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which the Jews interpreted as God's judgment on Rome for destroying Jerusalem.

The exact source of John's metaphors is uncertain, but they do speak of God's wrath toward a rebellious creation with the purpose of redemption in mind.

"and a third of the sea became blood" This is another allusion to the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exodus 7:20-21).

Revelation 8:9 "a third of the creatures. . .died" This is another allusion to the Egyptian plagues (cf. Exodus 7:21).

"a third of the ships were destroyed" This has no parallel in the OT, in apocalyptic literature, or in first century Roman literature. Obviously commerce is affected and goods and food would be scarce. It does confirm God's limited, progressive judgment. His judgment intensifies (1/4 in the seals, 1/3 in the trumpets) until in the bowls the time of repentance has passed and total, complete judgment occurs.

Verses 10-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 8:10-11 10The 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 waters. 11The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.

Revelation 8:10 "a great star fell from heaven" This may be an allusion to Isaiah 14:12. Many have tried to relate this to Revelation 8:3 or 9:1, but this may be trying to lock down John's imagery too tightly. Be careful of attempting to interpret each and every detail. This is dramatic imagery. Usually in Jewish apocalyptic literature a star falling refers to an angel (i.e. 9:1).

Revelation 8:11 "The name of the star is called Wormwood" In the OT wormwood is linked to idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 29:17-18). It is also seen as mixed with poison and is, therefore, deadly (cf. Jeremiah 9:15; Jeremiah 23:15; Amos 6:12). Wormwood, by itself (cf. TEV), was bitter but not lethal. Here it is a metaphor for Divine judgment.

A good example of the inappropriateness of moderns trying to force the details of Revelation into their day is the assertion that the Russian Chernobyl nuclear facility which experienced a meltdown was fulfilled prophecy because the name meant wormwood in Russian. This practice of interpreting the Bible based on the morning newspaper has been common throughout the last two thousand years and should warn us to beware of the same procedure!

Verse 12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 8:12 12The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.

Revelation 8:12 Darkness has always been a sign of God's judgment (cf. Exodus 10:21; Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 50:3; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:2, Joel 2:10, Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Amos 5:18; Mark 13:24). The heavenly bodies were often worshiped as spiritual powers. God created them (cf. Genesis 1:14-19; Isaiah 40:26); named them (cf. Psalms 147:4; Isaiah 40:26); controls them (cf. Isaiah 48:13); and they praise Him (cf. Psalms 148:3).

Verse 13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 8:13 13Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, "Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!"

Revelation 8:13 "Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying" The KJV has "angel" instead of "eagle," but this comes from a late ninth-century Greek manuscript. Both Sinaiticus (א) and Alexandrinus (A) have "eagle." This can refer to: a vulture (or eagle), which often was a symbol of slaughter (cf. Ezekiel 17:3; Habakkuk 1:8; Matthew 24:28; Luke 17:37)

1. an allusion to the judgment scene in Ezekiel 39:17-20; Hosea 8:1

2. an allusion to the intertestamental apocalyptic book of II Baruch 77:21-22, in which a vulture sends a message to God's hurting people

3. the Roman army standards which were topped by eagles

The "flying in midheaven" is probably another allusion to birds of prey soaring above the earth (cf. Revelation 14:6; Revelation 19:17).

"Woe, woe, woe" This possibly corresponds to the last three trumpets which are to come (cf. Revelation 9:12; Revelation 11:14; Revelation 12:12); it may also be a symbol of intensity (like "holy, holy, holy" of Revelation 4:8). In Hebrew a three-fold repetition is a superlative (cf. Holy, holy, holy of Isaiah 6:3). In the OT "woe" marks a certain poetic lament related to death and judgment.

"to those who dwell on the earth" This phrase refers to the unredeemed (cf. Revelation 3:10; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 11:10; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:2).

Revelation 9:0

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Revelation 8". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/revelation-8.html. 2021.
 
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