Many commentators and pastors often attempt to put book of Revelation, including the seals, trumpets, and bowls into well-defined patterns. It is not intended to chronological in sequence and it is not intended to represent a corresponding historical development. It is often taught from a perspective that is nearly impossible to teach. In attempting to teach and understand the Revelation of John in a nicely wrapped package would thus give the impression that John was writing a work of literature rather than documenting and sharing with fellow believers the incredible, awe-inspiring visions from God. In other words, if anyone claims to have a firm understanding of or teaching that the Revelation of John is a chronological work then the letter would be more about John and not about the judgment of God. E.F. Scott writes, “that a perfectly logical apocalypse would be a contradiction. I tell you this because we are going to look at these visions of John do not follow a chronological sequence nor a reiteration of the visions.
Vs 1: Opening of the seventh seal – When the seventh seal is opened there was silence in heaven for about 30 minutes. This silence is not symbolic of eternal rest nor so God can hear the prayers of the suffering saints. In Jewish literature it speaks of angels refraining from singing during the day so that the praises of Israel can be heard in heaven. Instead, it is more of a dramatic pause, what we would call “the calm before the storm”.
Vs. 2 – 5: It is commonly held that the events of verses 2 – 5 takes place during this interval of silence. This is the preparation that takes place before the judgments are released. In this we see the seven angels standing before God and each were given trumpets. According to Jewish scripture and tradition it is believed the names of the seven archangels are Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraquael, Gabriel, and Remiel (1 Enoch 20:2 – 8). Their job in the book of Revelation is to announce the series of plagues which are to fall on the earth and its inhabitants. It is also probable that they are the seven angels who pour out the bowls of wrath from God.
In the OT the trumpet was used for a range of reasons such as calling the people together (Numbers 10:3), to move the people of Israel on their journey (vss. 5 – 6), to sound the alarm for war (vs. 9), and to celebrate days of sacred feasts (vs. 10). The priests led the army around the city of Jericho with trumpets. The Jewish new year is called Tishri which is the “day you blow the trumpets.” The trumpet was also used in the coronation of a King.
The trumpets in Revelation are called eschatological trumpets and they herald the coming wrath of God. These angels are used to call on the four great disasters of God in the material universe, two demonic plagues on unrepentant man, and the proclamation that the world has submitted to God’s sovereignty.
Vs 3: This other angel is not one of the seven. He performs the priestly duties of offering up the prayers of the persecuted. The incense is either mingled with the prayers of the saints or the incense is the prayers. It is likely he is the angel who is the heavenly priest who offers the prayers of all the saints (not just those martyred, but all saints) to God.
Vs 4: The incense is added to the hot coals creating a cloud of incense smoke and arises before God and this is a symbol of divine acceptance. According to Mounce, “The scene in heaven suggests that there is something sacrificial about genuine prayer. Both the believer and his prayer enter the presence of God by way of the altar.
Vs 5: The fragrance of incense of the prayer of intercession now turns to judgment. The prayers of the saints play a major part in bringing the judgment of God on earth. It is in this instance that the prayers of Revelation 6:10 are answered in part. We know the judgment is about to happen because it is preceded by thunder, lightning, and an earthquake.
The First Four Trumpets
Vs 6: The angels raise their trumpets in readiness to sound the trumpet.
Vs 7: Trumpet 1 - With the blowing of the first trumpet the second series of judgments begin. Now, we must remember the first four seals depicted judgment as a result of human sinfulness, the trumpets reveal the active involvement of God in bringing punishment upon the world.
Now, it is also important to know that these judgments are not intended for the church, they are intended or directed against a world that is hostile to God. It is interesting to note that as the intensity of the judgment increases, so does the hard-heartedness of man. These are not final judgments, yet they will affect a significant portion of the earth.
The judgment is hail and fire, mixed with blood. The result is 1/3 of the trees and grass burned up. This imagery is akin to the seventh plague in Egypt. The fire which accompanies the thunder is most likely lightning and the blood refers to the awesome storm rather than the fire and destruction that the lightning would cause. Great devastation follows the storm. The fraction is not intended to be literal; it refers to a portion of destruction but not the majority, this judgment is not final. This serves as a warning that the full wrath of God is yet to come.
The trees that were burned up are probably fruit trees, because fruit trees were important to the maintenance of life in Israel. Thus, this plague is aimed at nature and yet, it does affect humanity as well.
Vs 8- 9: The second trumpet – This judgment results in in the destruction of a third of the sea which kills a third of the sea creatures and a third of the ships. Again, the fraction is not to be taken literal; it refers to a significant portion of the sea, sea creatures and ships being destroyed. Some find the mountain being cast into the sea is a volcanic eruption. It is believed so because 20 years previous to the writing of the apocalypse Mt. Vesuvius erupted and destroyed Pompeii. According to some Jewish writers this was a judgment on Rome for having destroyed Jerusalem. The mention of fire in the first three plagues corresponds with the Angel of verse 5. With the second trumpet and the mountain being thrown into the sea results also in the water turning to blood. This is a reminder of the first plague of Egypt in Exodus where the rivers are turned to blood, making the water undrinkable (Ex. 7:20 -21). However, this plague is to be understood as not poisoning the water, but a judgment that goes beyond explanation in turns of natural phenomenon.
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