We saw in chapter 4 that Heaven is pretty noisy, with all the singing and worshiping, trumpets being blown, thunder and lightning. Angels and living creatures busy doing God’s will but at the start of chapter 8 we see heaven fall silent when the seventh seal is broken.
This represents a pause in all the events, a moment of reflection and preparation for what is to happen next
The seven angels are then given a trumpet each. In the Old Testament the trumpets were used to announce important events and give signals to the army and the people. This is preparation for the battle which is about to start.
Before this starts though, another angel stands at the altar with a gold incense burner and is given a lot of incense to burn representing the prayers of God’s people. I have pondered what the meaning of verse 5 is when then angel throws the fire from the altar and have come to this conclusion;
In the the temple when the offering had been made, holy fire would then consume the sacrifice signifying acceptance. Perhaps this in Revelation then signifies acceptance of the prayers of the saints on earth – their cries of “How long?” (Revelation 6 v 10) and “Thy Kingdom Come” have been heard and accepted, and God is now going to take action, although it is not the angel himself that makes the prayers acceptable, he would only have done this with some form of instruction from God.
We see here too that the angels now move from their usual role as mediators and messengers into a more active role in the proceedings as they take up their trumpets.
The Seven Trumpets
- Trumpet 1 – hail and fire mixed with blood pour down onto earth, a third of the earth was burnt up. This is similar to the seventh plague on Egypt.
- Trumpet 2 – a huge mountain on fire (volcano?) is thrown into the sea, a third of the sea is turned into blood and a third of the living creatures in the sea die. A third of the ships are destroyed. The first plague on Egypt was the river turning to blood.
- Trumpet 3 – a large star (called Bitterness or in some translations Wormwood) falls to earth and destroys a third of the rivers and springs. The water turns bitter and many people die from drinking it. Wormwood is a plant with a strong and bitter taste often used as a metaphor for calamity and sorrow. It is not poisonous but if the water could not be drunk then the people would die.
- Trumpet 4 – a third of the sun, the moon and the stars are struck losing a third of their brightness. There is no light for a third of the day and a third of the night. The ninth plague of Egypt was where darkness covered the land for 3 days.
We see here why there are some people who claim that Revelation is historical in places because of the similarities with the plagues of Egypt. They say that these events have already happened, but the descriptions are not the same. These events are clearly far greater that those of the plagues of Egypt and suggest more the preparation for the final Exodus of God’s people from a world of evil
At this point an eagle appears crying:
O Horror, horror! How terrible it will be for all who live on earth when the sound comes from the trumpets that the other three angels must blow (v 13)
Here, “the inhabitants of the earth” refer to the wicked (see Revelation 6 v 10 where the righteous are calling for God’s judgement)
- Trumpet 5 – a fallen star is given the key to the abyss. The star opens the abyss and smoke pours out, the sunlight is blocked by the smoke and locusts appear. This time instead of destroying grass and vegetation they are to torture those who do not have the mark of God’s seal (see Chapter 7) for 5 months. Those tortured want to die but cannot. The locusts look like battle horses with crowns on their heads and human faces, long hair and lions teeth. They wear iron breastplates and their wings sound like many horse drawn chariots. Their tails are like scorpions and with their sting they can hurt people for 5 months. They are ruled by the angel Abaddon (Greek: Apollyan – the destroyer) who is in charge of the abyss. This is the first of the 3 horrors. Here the star refers to a divine agent, possibly a fallen angel and the words used for abyss mean bottomless or very deep. Locusts tend to travel in huge swarms and destroy everything in their path, but this time they cannot touch the ones with the seal of God on them just as the locust plague in Egypt (Exodus 10) did not touch the Israelites. The time period of 5 months appears to relate to the dry months of summer where there is a risk of a locust plague, their description of human-like faces indicates perhaps a more intelligent calculated and malicious swarm rather than just the normal swarming at random. Further descriptions make them sound cunning and cruel.
- Trumpet 6 – a voice from the horns of the altar calls for the release of the 4 angels bound at the river Euphrates (note that this is in Modern day Iraq & Syria). They had been kept ready to kill one third of humanity. The mounted troops number 200 million. A third of humanity is killed by the fire, smoke and sulphur coming from the horses mouths, and people were hurt by the tails which looked like snakes. The horns of the altar were projections which could be taken hold of by someone who was seeking mercy, fleeing from judgement. The description of the horses indicates a demonic origin.
Yet the rest of humanity just carried on, they did not turn away from worshiping demons or idols of gold, silver, bronze and wood. Nor did they repent of their murder, immorality, magic and stealing. All the “woes” and plagues were only partial – they did not destroy everything completely, meaning that there was opportunity still for humanity to repent and be saved from the following disasters, but they did not. Sometimes even pain and torment cannot change a rebellious heart.
In keeping with what appears to be a regular pattern, there is a pause before we reach the seventh trumpet which we will come to in chapter 11.
All quotes from The Good News Bible