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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Revelation 8

Verse 1

Rev 8:1. The seventh and last seal was opened but nothing took place for half an hour. In the march of events it frequently happens that a lull will come between different campaigns. That is described here as being a silence of half an hour. We recall that when the four angels in Rev 7:1-3 were prepared to continue the action of God's judgments against the persecutors of His people, they were told to hold the winds back until the sealing of the faithful had been completed. This half hour silence represents the lull in the judgments while the sealing was being done. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 1. The silence period (seventh seal)--Rev 8:1-6. The disclosures of the seventh seal consist in the signals of the seven trumpets, announced in the order of events by the seven angels. The trumpets sounded the beginning of the end of Jerusalem, of the Jewish temple, of Judaism and of all that constituted the Jewish state. It signaled the end of the world of Mat 24:3; Mat 24:14 --not the inhabited world, but the Jewish world. As the seven trumpets of Jericho, borne and blown by the seven priests, signaled the fall of the Canaanite city standing in the way of Israel's conquest (Jos 6:13-21), so did the seven trumpets, sounded successively by the seven angels of Revelation, signal the fall of Jerusalem. They signaled the end of the once "faithful city, turned harlot" (Isa 1:21); "the great city, spiritually called Sodom and Egypt where also the Lord was crucified" (Rev 11:8; Rev 11:13). It was the end of the apostate Jerusalem which stood in the way of the conquest of the gospel; the Jerusalem that refused the "testimony" which the martyrs under the altar of Rev 6:9 had "held"; the word of God which the same enthroned souls of Rev 20:4 had "witnessed." It was the Jerusalem of Gal 4:25-26, which was "in bondage with her children." The old Jerusalem was doomed to destruction before the advance of the "Jerusalem above" of Gal 4:26, and "heavenly Jerusalem" of Hebrews 12;23, and the "new Jerusalem" of Rev 21:1 --the church of the new covenant, the "holy city" and "temple" of the Christ who was the Lamb of Revelation. When the angel opened this seventh seal, before the momentous announcements were heard, a dread and awful silence was recorded. "There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour."--Rev 8:1. This scene was in Heaven: It was the place where all of these correlated visions were disclosed. The "silence" here was accentuated by the contrast with the "voices" in the six seals before it. It was the silence of dreadful suspense, fearful expectation, a calm before the storm. The silence period was for the space of half an hour: It was the symbol of pause, the sign of shortness of time. A similarity exists between this silence and the cessation of singers and trumpets in the cleansing of the temple by Hezekiah when the king and all the congregation "bowed themselves and worshipped." (2Ch 29:1-36) The silence here followed in immediate succession the scene of chapter 7, where all the angels, elders and beings "fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God." The similarity between the cessation of the singers and the silence of the angels was impressive. The former was a cessation of reverent worship, after the "singers sang" and the "trumpeters sounded" at the altars of Hezekiah. The latter was a silence of waiting awe, after the voices of "all the angels" in chapter 7 had ceased; it was a silence significant of what was about to occur in the final scene of the seventh seal.

Verse 2

Rev 8:2. The events of the seventh seal will include several verses, for there are seven angels involved in the events and all that transpires in connection with them is what was revealed when the seventh seal was broken. The angels were given each a trumpet but they will not all be used in the same series. Four of them will sound one after the other, then will come a halt after which the remaining three will sound. (See verse 13.) Doubtless the first four angels correspond with the four that were holding the four winds that were to bring consternation upon the persecutors of God's people, which is the reason why the seven angels are divided into separate groups, four and three. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 2. "And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets."--Rev 8:2. The angels were the announcers; the trumpets the signals for what had been announced to begin. It followed the vision of "the day of wrath" in the sixth seal, and was a further vision of judgments, of things "shortly" to come to pass, which had been set forth in the six preceding seals. The trumpets of the seventh seal were the signals to proceed to the accomplishment of that which the seals signified.

Verse 3

Rev 8:3. Incense is a symbol of prayer, and while the judgments of God against the persecutors were preparing, the faithful servants of God were engaged in their devotions to Him. That is why the incense and prayer are combined in this verse. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 3. "Another angel came and stood at the altar having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense that he should offer it with prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne"--Rev 8:3. The altar was a place of sacrifice; the throne was a mercy seat. The angel stood at the altar before the throne to join with those who prayed. The angel offered much incense . . . with the prayers of all the saints--This more than usual incense had a significance-- the additional incense was because of the prayers of all the saints in contrast with the prayers of only those saints which were under the altar--of chapter six. It was added to the prayers of the great multitude of chapter 7, in behalf of the comparatively few souls of saints under the altar. This superadded prayer in which the angel joined was the same in character and purpose with the prayer of the martyrs in Rev 6:9, for the Lord to "avenge" their blood. The martyrs had been told to rest, or wait, until the time (see Rev 6:9-10). The time was about to be signaled, the prayer was about to be answered, joined by all the saints, superadded by the angel; that for which they were to be avenged, for which they were told to wait, was about to be done--it was ready to be executed.

Verse 4

Rev 8:4. The odor of incense was pleasing to God in the days when such services were required (Exodus 30; Lev 16:12-13). and likewise the prayers of faithful servants in the Christian Dispensation are acceptable (1Pe 3:12). Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 4. "The smoke of the incense which came up with prayers of the saints ascended up before God, out of the angel's hand"--Rev 8:4. The smoke ascended in acknowledgment of the prayers being heard, recognized and received at the throne. The incense ascended to God out of the angel's hand, which was the sign that the answer to the prayers of all the saints, joined with the cry of the souls under the altar, would be forthcoming.

Verse 5

Rev 8:5. Filled it with fire off the altar. In the Mosaic system the priest obtained the fire from the brazen altar with which to burn the incense. The angel followed the same pattern in the symbolical performance, except that after having used some fire for the burning of incense before the golden altar, he got some more fire which he put in the censer (a portable fumigator) and cast it into the earth. This aroused voices like the sound of thun-derings which were the complaints of the foes of truth at the prospect of God's judgment about to come upon them. So mighty and widespread were these murmurings that John likened them to an earthquake. Rev 8:6. The half hour silence is about to end and the four winds are about to be released; the first four angels with trumpets are about to sound. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verses 5-6. "The angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, thunderings, lightnings and an earthquake"--Rev 8:5. The same fire that consumed the incense would speedily destroy the enemies of the saints, and the apostate city of Jerusalem, and the temple of Judaism. The fire-filled censer was cast into the earth. As previously shown "the earth" signified the place of the persecuting powers. The censer filled with the fire of the altar was "cast into the earth" as an act to cause explosion --and the result was symbolized by voices, thunderings, lightning and an earthquake. This was the fourfold sign of the judgments ready to come, gathering as a storm approaches with thunderings, and the earthquake signified the shaking of persecuting powers. The four angels and four trumpets were four signs that these events were about to break in fury. "And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound"--Rev 8:6. The procession of events was ready to begin.

Verse 7

Rev 8:7. It should be remembered through verse 12 that the plagues symbolized represent the reverses that came upon the Roman Empire which finally resulted in the downfall of the government. The items mentioned arc figurative or symbolic, but they are worded as if literal calamities were being imposed. That is because in a book where certain facts of an immaterial character are predicted in symbols, the events have to be reported as if they were happening literally. Thus we have a hail and electrical storm that causes bloodshed and scorching of much of the vegetation. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 7. THE SOUNDING OF THE SEVEN TRUMPETS (Rev 8:7 to Rev 9:21) When the silence of the seventh seal ended, seven angels stood ready, with seven trumpets, to signal the commencement of the series of judgments, woes and plagues. The descriptive language employed in the revelation of these trumpet signals and woes was parallel in character and substance with Luke's record of the startling signs and the astronomical terrors which the Lord told the disciples would be fulfilled before that generation passed away. (Luk 21:25-26) There is no way to dissociate the record of Matthew and Luke foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem from the visions of Revelation. The earth smitten--(the first trumpet)--Rev 8:7. "The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up." 1. The hail, fire, blood, cast upon earth. These descriptions were symbols of devastation. The earth, as in previous signs, denoted the place of the powers (Ezr 1:2), and here applies to the Jewish powers (Rom 9:28), as the comparison with the records of Matthew and Luke have verified. It is the trumpet of devastation on the land of the Jews, and of judgments on the land beast, the Jewish persecutors. 2. The trees and green grass. These symbols signified that the plague of devastation affected the earth and all that was naturally of it, or the total destruction of that part of the nations represented by the Jewish powers. The meaning of a third part was based on the three woes, one part for each woe of devastation.

Verse 8

Rev 8:8. The judgments of God against the Empire continue as thy second angel sounds his trumpet. Great mountain burning signifies the downfall of some unit of the government. Cast into the sea symbolizes the people (represented by the sea) as feeling the effects of this political downfall. Sea became blood signifies that much bloodshed was suffered among the people caused by the internal disturbances. Rev 8:9. All of this is figurative because the literal sea and its vessels of traffic were unharmed by the political confusion. But it gives a picture of what did occur, and in stating an exact percentage as dying we will understand that a great portion suffered but the government was not exterminated. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verses 8-9. The sea smitten--(the second trumpet)--Rev 8:8-9. "And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed." 1. The burning mountain. The mountain was used to signify a powerful monarchy, as in Amo 4:1 --and the mountain burning with fire in this symbol signified that the powers which hindered the church were seething in the fury of preparation for attack and destruction. The same imagery is used of Israel's powerful enemies in Isa 40:1; Isa 41:5. In this vision of the tribulations which were so soon to overwhelm the church, the burning mountain symbolized the lust of war, and it was descriptive of the Roman and Jewish persecuting powers. 2. The mountain cast into the sea. The great burning mountain was seen in the vision as being cast into the sea. The Roman emperor was symbolized as the beast of the sea and was represented as coming up out of the sea: and this symbol evidently signifies that the government which would wage this war against the church would be the empire and its tributary powers. 3. The smitten sea. As earth referred to the Jewish powers in the land of the Jews, the sea signified the Roman powers. The smitten sea meant the destruction of the power of the sea beast--the Roman persecutors ceasing to make war against the church. The creatures of the sea died and the ships were destroyed; all of which were symbolic descriptions of the broken powers of persecution.

Verse 10

Rev 8:10. No change in the general drama takes place, but some special incident is predicted to affect the people unfavorably. A star in symbolical language denotes some leader, and he is here likened to a meteor that. falls to the earth, selecting as its landing place the rivers and fountains of water. That is attacking a vital portion of a country because of the necessity of water. Rev 8:11. The name of this star was Wormwood. That is from the Greek word APSINTHOS, which Thayer defines, "wormwood, absinthe." Webster's -definition of the word is as follows: "A green alcoholic liquor containing oils of wormwood and anise, and other aromatics. Its continued use causes nervous derangement." It is no wonder, then, that many men died of the waters. Verse 10-11. The rivers smitten--(the third trumpet)--Rev 8:10-11. "And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter." 1. A great star from heaven. The falling star, as in Mat 24:29, Mar 13:25 and Luk 21:25, represented the downfall of authorities and rulers of the persecuting governments-- falling as it were a burning lamp, or torch, as a spent meteor of the heaven, falling from their former power and dominion. The same imagery was in Isaiah's description of the fall of the Babylonian rulers; the constellations were used as the symbols of their positions, and the same figures of speech were used by the prophet as metaphors of the darkness that settled over the empire in the destruction of ancient Babylon. "The stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give. their light: the sun shall be darkened . . . and the moon shall not cause her light to shine . . . and I will punish the world for their evil and the wicked for their iniquities." (Isa 13:10-11) The Babylonian "world" and its rulers were the objects of the punishment in this passage. The same familiar symbols are employed by Jesus in the records of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and by John in the visions of Revelation, foretelling the ruin of Jerusalem, the doom of Judaism and the downfall of their rulers. 2. And it fell upon rivers, fountains of waters: The smitten rivers are the representations of the drying up of the source of the existing powers. The fountain is the source of a stream; the river is the channel of its flow. When the persecuting powers were smitten the fountain of waters dried up, and the river of their power ceased to carry the evil flow. 3. The waters became wormwood and; many died because they were made bitter. Wormwood was the name of a plant, distinguished for intense bitterness, and used to denote anything offensive and nauseous. The use of it to designate either food or water was a sign of extreme suffering. In this connection the name of the falling star was called Wormwood, for the bitter effects accompanying the downfall of the powers here symbolized, which attended the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. It was so revolting that even the mental picture of the physical putrification turns to nausea, the bitterness of which only wormwood could signify. Matthew's record says "for then shall be great tribulation such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." (Mat 24:21) Mark's record reads: "For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be." (Mar 13:19) Luke tersely says: "For there shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people." (Luk 21:23)

Verse 12

Rev 8:12. Third part is commented upon at verse 9. This angel gave a sound that resulted in throwing all the luminaries out of order, pitching the country into a state of semi-darkness. It was another shake-up among the leaders of the empire. Rev 8:13. The things which happened to the country, when the four winds were turned loose or when the angels sounded, seemed bad enough if that was to be the end of the troubles. But it was not, for there came another angel flying through the midst of heaven, which denotes that he came into the region of the political heavens of the Roman Empire. He pronounced a triple woe on the people to come when the remaining three angels sound their trumpets. Let us bear in mind that we are still reading of things that were revealed when the seventh seal was broken. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verses 12-13. The sun smitten--(the fourth trumpet)--Rev 8:12-13. "And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!" 1. The sun, moon and stars: The blackout of the sun, the moon, and the stars, the darkness of the day and even the denseness of the night are the signs of the stark distress and pall of gloom descriptive of the fourth stroke of the trumpets, in the darkness that settled over the Jewish state and nation. The four trumpets have sounded a cycle of judgments, land, sea, rivers and luminaries, a complete sphere of symbols, envisioning descending distress and tribulation, suffering and sorrow, in signs comparable to the calamities of the seals in the symbols of earthquakes, famine, pestilence and carnage. All of these visions announced with profound proclamations of the trumpet symbols that the time of these terrors was at hand. 2. Angel flying midst heaven: Here is an angel differing from all others of the visions before this scene. This flying angel was the imagery of the eagle, and flying "in the midst of heaven," was symbolic of a swift messenger of warning to the existing powers of the quickly coming calamities. 3. Saying with a loud voice. The voice of this angel was loud, not in sound, but in meaning--a great voice, a portentous message of immediate importance, revealing its imperative character. The angelic voice vibrated with the intonations of woe--"woe, woe, woe"--in awful refrain to enhance the gravity of the pronouncements. 4. Other voices . . . yet to come. It was "by reason" of three trumpet pronouncements to follow that the flying angel called his woes. The fearful plagues of the four trumpets that had sounded were only a start in the succeeding terrors. The "other voices" were the messages of the angels of the remaining trumpets "yet to come," which was the "reason" for the flying eagle of woe. In the series of seven trumpets, four had sounded, three remained. The woes of "the other voices" of the three angels and trumpets "yet to sound," in their respective turns, held forebodings "to the inhabiters of the earth" beyond all that had been theretofore depicted. The "inhabiters of the earth," does not mean all the people in the world. The "earth" has been defined as the place of the powers to which reference is made and is limited by such reference. Accordingly it sometimes denotes the place of the Jewish powers only, but in other instances both the Jewish and the Roman powers, as the context of the attending signs and pronouncements show. Until now the visions have surrounded Jerusalem, Judaism and the Jews, and the seals and trumpets have revealed and signaled the events that betoken the "end of the world" to them-the Jewish world-the destruction of their state. This is undoubtedly the significance of the expression "end of the world" in Mat 24:3. On this point Mark records that four of the disciples (Peter, James, John and Andrew) asked Jesus privately, "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled" (Mar 13:3-4). In the threefold account of the same event, the end of the Jewish world, and the attending signs, Matthew, Mark and Luke join in saying the generation to whom he was speaking should not pass "till all these things be fulfilled" (Mat 24:34); and "till all these things be done" (Mar 13:30); and "till all be fulfilled" (Luk 21:32). It is noteworthy that the three inspired narrators emphasize all the things set forth in the signs would reach their fulfillment in that generation. Matthew lends even greater force to the already unequivocal statements by his statement in Luk 23:33, "Verily, I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation." By no manner of means can such forthright language be circumvented. Men may talk and write about it but they can neither write nor talk around it. It is so with the opening of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets, the relation to the destruction of Jerusalem, the demolition of the temple, the downfall of Judaism, and the end of the Jewish state is too evident to be controverted. With the "loud voice" of the flying angel, therefore, alerting the "inhabiters of the earth," the Jewish world, to the crescendo of woes in the "other voices" of the trumpets of the three angels "yet to come"--the vision increases in the forebodings of what was characterized as "men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." (Luk 21:26) In the grim contemplation of eventualities the hearts of men would fail. And of those very indescribable occurrences, in the successive events connected with the siege and desolation of Jerusalem, there is indisputable evidence to sustain their historicity.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 8". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/revelation-8.html. 1952.