Revelation 8:12-13 and the Fourth Trumpet

(12)  The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.

                   The fourth angel blew its warning. With the third trumpet we began to see the lights going out for the Jews (see comments on 8:10), and here we see the darkness continue to flourish. This language is so consistent throughout the scriptures, every time showing a nation being judged by God for their sins (see comments and chart on 6:12-17).

 

(13)  Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

                   Just as the opening of the first four seals (the four horsemen) were set apart from the opening of the last three, so the sounding of the first four trumpets are set apart from the last three. The visions will take another turn, and the last three warning blasts will only increase in terrible intensity.

                   “An eagle crying with a loud voice.” The eagle is used for carrying either deliverance (Exodus 19:4) or judgment. In Deuteronomy 28:49, the eagle is used of God’s judgment against the covenant people who disobey the covenant; this is the same Deuteronomy 28 that is seeing its final fulfillment in the days of Revelation.

                   “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth.” A woe is an exclamation of warning. In Matthew 23, Jesus gave a seven-fold woe upon the scribes and Pharisees before Jesus entering into a discussion of the judgment of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem. The last three trumpets will provide the Jews with intense woes as a final chance for repentance. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Revelation 8:10-11 and the Third Trumpet

 (10)  The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.

                   Stars either falling or burning out is another aspect of God’s judgment language (Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10, 3:15; Matthew 24:29). Recall from the creation of the world, how the lights of the heavens were made to govern the day and night (Genesis 1:14-16). These same lights are used in symbolism for the governments of nations too; when God speaks of stars falling, or the sun and moon not giving light, then it is “lights out” for that nation. Here, God is putting out the light of the Jew as the third angel blasts his warning. This great and burning star fell from heaven. God used a similar means of communication when he spoke of the fall of Babylon: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!” (Isaiah 14:12). This star also represents a third, as there are three governors (sun, moon, and stars); thus only a fraction of the light has gone out.

(11)  The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.

                   The star is named Wormwood. This name adds additional depth and symbolism for “Wormwood” has been used many times in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 29:18; Proverbs 5:4; Jeremiah 9:15, 23:15; Lamentations 3:15, 19; Amos 5:7, 6:12). In the Hebrew language it is an unknown poisonous plant; however, in the Greek (apsinthos, corresponding to the English “absinthe”), it is a well known plant growing in the region of the seven churches in Asia. The essence of the plant is still used today for strong spirits, but to drink it in its purity would lead to certain death. John recorded that “the waters became wormwood,” showing that this was not a deluded beverage, but distilled wormwood.

“A third of the waters.” These waters are not the seas, but the rivers and springs; these are the sources of drinking water. The drinking water became bitter and “many people died from the water.” The Jewish-Roman War as started by Nero was a truly bitter time, with much suffering and much death long before the climax of the war. Those days were so bitter that they would even cause many of the Jewish Christians to fall away, to betray one another and hate one another (Matthew 24:10). Jesus also said that “because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

Revelation 8:8-9 and the Second Trumpet

(8)  The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. (9)  A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

                   By the sounding of the second warning, John sees “something like a great mountain,” and it is on fire. The burning mountain is thrown into the sea and a fraction of the sea became blood. Maybe it was the fire which rained down in the first trumpet warning which set this mountain ablaze. Whatever the case, this mountain is moved from its place and thrown out to the sea.

                   The “great mountain” which is burning with fire was first a figure used of Babylon: “behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, declares the LORD, which destroys the whole earth; I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and make you a burnt mountain” (Jeremiah 51:25). The mountain in Revelation is likely a figure of the Jewish nation (which is also given the name Babylon later in Revelation).

                   The mountain is “thrown into the sea.” This is the figure which Jesus used to refer to the fruitless, ungodly Jerusalem of that day. In Matthew 21, after Jesus witnessed the fruitlessness in the temple of Jerusalem (v.12-17), he cursed a fruitless fig tree as a representation of the Jewish people who would receive the curses of the covenant (Deuteronomy 28). Then, to his disciples, he said “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen” (Matthew 21:21). The “this mountain” is not just any mountain, but a specific mountain. Knowing that he was near the outside of Jerusalem, he must have been talking about Mount Zion (possibly as a figure of the Jewish nation as a whole). Later in the chapter, Jesus said to the Jews, “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). If the mountain of the Jewish nation would not bear the fruits of the kingdom, his apostles would ask that the mountain would be cast out and thrown into the sea, and it would be done. Here in Revelation, we are seeing the prophecy that it would soon take place in those days.

“A third of the sea became blood.” Water to blood was the first plague of Egypt, “The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile” (Exodus 7:18). However, in this vision, only a third of the sea becomes blood, and only a third of the sea creatures and ships were destroyed. This fraction which is affected is in keeping with the symbolism that the seven trumpets are only warning the people of a coming utter destruction if they don’t repent. Similarly, the plagues of Egypt appear to be warnings to Pharaoh.

Revelation 8:6-7 and the First Trumpet

(6)  Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.

                   We have already seen a lot of sevens in the book, and we will see many more to come. It is important to recognize that God’s message through Revelation comes by sevens. There are seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven cups containing seven plagues. Each of these are in order and reveal the structure and nature of the book. After each seven (the seals, the trumpets, and the plagues) there is the repeated picture of judgment with thunder, lightning, hail, and earthquakes. This is not a disorganized book of visions, it has a unique structure that is purposeful. The repetition of seven shows the completeness of the judgment of God against his old covenant people. The pattern that Christ shows to his saints is that we will judge and judge and judge to the fullest extent, and completely deliver the faithful.

                   “Seven trumpets prepared to blow.” This begins the new section of sevens, the seven seals are now broken and the covenant scroll is fully revealed, the trumpet of war will now blast their warning against the covenant people of Israel for their guilt in rejecting the covenant (see comment on 8:2 for more on the trumpets).

 

(7)  The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.

                   The first blast of warning from the trumpets is not an empty warning by any means. For following the trumpet sound, a third of the land is burned up. We are not at liberty to understand this to be a literal and actual event, only a symbolic representation of the suffering of the Jewish people which God caused to spur them toward repentance (9:20-21).

                   “A third of the earth was burned up.” The Greek word “ge” can refer either to the earth, to the land, or to a region or country. As this context is dealing with the judgment warning against God’s old covenant people (the Jews), then “ge” would be in reference to the land of Israel (Judea – in Roman times). The symbol of “a third” reminds us that this is a warning and not complete destruction, however the large fraction is certainly a very stern warning from God.

“A third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” Though Josephus does record the removal of trees all around the area of Jerusalem (Josephus, Wars 6:1:1), again we are not given allowance to consider this to be literal. Life is no longer flourishing with greenery, fresh air and loveliness; rather their lives can be described as filled with constant destructive fires, smoke filled lungs and bloodshot eyes. The good days have passed away. The suffering of the Jews for many years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem is a very real subject. Josephus does a wonderful job pointing out one cause of agony after another for the Jewish people (his “Wars of the Jews” is a must-read). Remember, all this was to warn the people and help lead them to repentance (9:20-21).

Revelation 8:3-5 and God Answers Prayer

(3)  And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, (4)  and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

                   This scene reminds us of the location of the vision. This is happening in the temple of God, the house of God. No, not the physical one in Jerusalem, but the true spiritual temple today, the church (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21-22). The symbol of the incense, which was used in the daily service of the physical temple, is described as the prayers of the saints. This is a consistent symbol of prayer, as seem also in Revelation 5:8.

 

(5)  Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

                   This is a figure of God’s response to the prayers of his children. But what were the saints praying? I suppose they were praying the same thing that anyone else plunged into a great tribulation would be praying for; deliverance and justice. This is what the saints who had lost their lives were saying: “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (6:10), and I assume that this “How long” plea is also the content of the prayers from the earth.

                   “And threw it on the earth.” This is symbolic of God’s answer to prayer. The prayers went up and God’s response is sent back to the earth coupled with fire from the altar. When God’s response reaches the earth, there were “peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” Here is that textbook judgment language again, used throughout the Old and New Testaments (see comments on 6:12-17) God’s response to the prayers of the saints in that of judgment against the ungodly.

Revelation 8:2 and Seven Angels with Seven Trumpets

(2)  Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

                   Who are these seven angels? John speaks of them not by way of introduction, but as if we already know who they are. We have been introduced to seven angels before, back in Revelation 1:20. They were the angels of the seven churches. Remember, back in 1:20, that the angels are not a figurative sign, but they are the revealed mystery of the figurative sign (the stars), making the angels actual angels (see comments on 1:20). Many commentators misunderstand the angels of the seven churches and make them out to be human letter deliverers, or the preachers of seven congregations in Asia, but Christ said that they were literal angels (in one of the few places in Revelation where the Lord reveals the literal interpretation; we can’t miss the freebees!). Here in chapter eight, John sees these seven angels again. Last time they were messengers to the churches, this time they are messengers to the Jews. The message is the blasting of the seven trumpets; the message is that of war. Israel has breached the covenant and the time for her judgment has come.

                   “Seven trumpets were given to them.” This brings my mind back to the days of Joshua! In Joshua 6:1-5, God gives the orders of battle against the city of Jericho. It was with the blast of seven trumpets and the shout of the people of God that the walls came tumbling down: “So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city” (Joshua 6:20). What an awesome event! But consider that this is what we are seeing in Revelation 8:1-5. With seven trumpets (v.2) and with the cry of the people of God (v.3-4) the foundations begin to shake (v.5) and it won’t be long before the city (Jerusalem) is laid waste.

 

 

 

 

Revelation 8:1 and the Half Hour of Silence

(1)  When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

                   It is finally time for the Lamb to break the seventh seal on the scroll (his written covenant with Israel). When the last seal breaks, the scroll is now unbound, and its contents unraveled. This is a full revelation. When this moment happens, we might expect loud crashing of thunder, but there is only silence in heaven. Silence for “about half an hour.” This half an hour, while a part of the vision which John is seeing, has no appearance of being a symbolic number. It seems that John is simply recording the details of this vision, and how there was silence “for about half an hour” after the Lamb opened the last seal. What a captivating scene in the throne room of God. We have seen so many uncountable saints and heavenly beings surrounding the throne, they sing to the Lord, they cry out praise to their God, but now there is only silence. Why?

                   Looking back at the Old Testament, it is not too challenging to deduce the meaning of the silence. Habakkuk writes of the righteous judgments of God, he said “the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). Isn’t silence a sign of respect? Yes, and it is also a sign of fear. The psalmist makes this point as well: “From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still” (Psalm 76:8). Further, when God was about to commit judgment on old Jerusalem, Zephaniah said “Be silent before the Lord GOD! For the day of the LORD is near; the LORD has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests” (Zephaniah 1:7). When Zechariah spoke of restoration for Jerusalem, he said “Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling” (Zechariah 2:13).

                   The covenant scroll is now fully exposed. Before, each seal revealed glimpses of the covenant, and showed that, on every point, the Jews were found guilty. Now that the covenant is exposed, so is the evidence that the Jews are in reproach and must face the consequences specifically laid out in the contract (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Leviticus 26:14-46). “But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:15). So now, taking the information that we learned from the Old Testament prophets, the silence demonstrates the respect and fear for the great Judge on the throne as he enters into judgment.

Revelation 7:16-17 and No Tears… on Earth?

(16)  They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. (17)  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

As stated before, this vision is focused on the spiritual lives of the saints still on earth. It is a common mistake to assume that the “No Tears in Heaven” is a reliable interpretation of the book of Revelation, but it simply is not. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe that their will be no tears in heaven (figuratively), but I don’t believe the book of Revelation speaks of such an idea. Revelation is not interested in heaven, it is interested in the days of restoration (Acts 3:21) during the days of vengeance (Luke 21:20-22). The visuals that we see here: no hunger, no thirst, no sunburn, no heat, and no tears are all beautiful reflections from the Old Testament prophets. These are all old images of restoration and relate to past events when times were hard. During God’s judgments in the Old Testament times, food and water would become scarce. The people would work hard in the burning sun just to gain a little food. What little food that could be harvested would be stripped away from them by the enemies. The only thing that was not scarce during God’s old judgments were tears. Plenty of tears.

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.” The first part of this picture (verse sixteen), is repeated from Isaiah 49. Isaiah was talking about restoration! Specifically, restoration for Israel after their troublesome loss to Babylon, and their weariness in captivity. Old Israel certainly dealt with a great tribulation, but God’s encouraging words to them is how he will refresh and restore them:

“They shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them” (Isaiah 49:10).

Notice the parallel! God is not saying anything new in Revelation 7:16, these are images of Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity. God is using the same images to encourage the weary brethren now in the first century.

“He will guide them to springs of living water.” This is also stated in Isaiah 49:10, with one variation here: this water is “living water.” The water which Jesus leads them to is not the same refreshing water that Zerubbabel led them to outside of Babylon. This water is much more refreshing! When he was still in the flesh, Jesus spoke of the water which he leads men to: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” This is another picture taken from the prophet Isaiah:

“He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8).

“I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress” (Isaiah 65:19).

The point is not that a Christian will never shed a tear again; remember, we are not allowed to take this statement literally in a figurative book. The figure is simply explaining that the days of tears and sorrow are over. For these brethren, they have endured a terrible tribulation, the worst days ever! Even Jesus said of those days: “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matthew 24:21). As Revelation speaks to the end of those days, Isaiah’s great picture of the Lord God wiping away the tears is employed to establish the point that their troubles are over. God has wiped away their problems and, in doing so, has wiped away their tears too.

Revelation 7:13-15 and the Identity of the Great Multitude

(13)  Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” (14)  I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

                   One of the elders starts the conversation with John about the identity of the great multitude. John’s reply of “Sir, you know” is a wonderful statement, and I would imagine that John could properly interpret this vision; I think he could recognize a picture of his own brethren. But for whatever reason, he does not answer the question of the elder. I like to think that maybe he is echoing the response of Ezekiel when he saw the vision of dry bones, and was asked “Son of man, can these bones live?” and Ezekiel’s response was “O Lord GOD, you know” (Ezekiel 37:3).

                   “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.” This is such an important picture for that generation of Christians, and equally applicable for us today. This was written to the very people who are going through the tribulation of those days, this is a snapshot of them after it is all over with. The Lord is allowing them to see themselves after the trials of that day if they would only endure and overcome.

                   They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” These have washed their garments in blood, not in the blood shed in the days of vengeance but in the blood of the Lamb. Washing garments in all other blood will result in a terribly stained robe but washing in the pure blood of the precious Lamb of God makes the robe white by his power. This is an image of the pure life of Christ worn daily by the saints in the light (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).

This is a visual of the promises Christ made to the churches earlier in Revelation 3:4-5, 18. “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

(15)  “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

                   I’m sure that this is true of all the faithful who have passed from this earth, but this vision seems more focused on the physical survivors of the great tribulation. As I also commented on 4:4 and 7:9-10, it is important to understand that those living in Christ on this earth are in fact before the throne of God. Colossians 2:12 shows how the Christians has been: 1. Buried with Him (this is by baptism; without baptism we cannot have a part in the burial of Christ), 2. Raised with Him (this is by faith through baptism; without it we are not resurrected from our sins), 3. Made alive together with Him. We are now alive together with Christ! That is, we are alive (no longer dead in sins), and we are “with Him!” Where is he that we can be with him? Why he is at the throne of God, or course! Yes, so that is where we serve him too. Later, in Colossians 3:1-4, Paul describes how or life is “hidden with Christ,” so that when he appears, “then you also will appear with him.” Ephesians 2:1-7 does a fantastic job of discussing these same spiritual truths. Therein it says: 1. He has “made us alive together with Christ,” 2. He “raised us up with him,” 3. He “seated us with him in the heavenly places.” This is what we have now that we are a Christian (if we are a true Christian). We are holy now. We are without condemnation now. We now belong in the heavenly places, serving our God day and night.

                   “In his temple.” It is important to recognize what the temple of God is today. The temple is not that physical building that was to be burned up only a year or two after the writing of Revelation! Notice how the New Testament speaks of the identity of the temple:

“What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

“In whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21-22).

“If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

“But Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Hebrews 3:6).

You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

It is evident from the biblical record that the temple and house of God is the Church. The symbol here in Revelation 7:15 of serving him day and night “in his temple” is a figure of the servants of God which make up the church of Christ.

Revelation 7:11-12 and the Angelic Choir

(11)  And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, (12) saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

                   As if the cry of praise from the great multitude of saints wasn’t fantastic enough, it is accompanied by “all” the angels. So, the innumerable multitude of the faithful is joined by the innumerable company of angels in worship to God. There praise to God is complete and well-structured in accordance with the reoccurring pattern of sevens in the book. They sevenfold praise is 1. Blessing, 2. Glory, 3. Wisdom, 4. Thanksgiving, 5. Honor, 6. Power, 7. Might. This sevenfold praise is bookended by “Amen.”