(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).