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Revelation Chapter 8
- Trumpets 1 - 4

Revelation chapter 8 and the few following chapters are the subject of a great deal of speculation in popular understanding. We will try to sort through some of them and get closer to a true understanding. We need to admit that we don't have all the light; we need to, as much as possible, allow the Bible to interpret itself. We need to pray and ask God for better understanding.

The Seventh Seal

"And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." (Rev 8:1)

This has often been thought of as a time of silence in heaven at the Second Coming because everyone has left heaven to come to earth. However, there are other understandings of what this quiet time might be. Three possibilities are:

  1. Heaven is empty while the Second Coming is happening.
  2. A time of anticipation before the seventh seal is opened.
  3. The inauguration of the 144,000 for their work on earth.
1. Heaven is Empty

If this is happening at the Second Coming, it would seem strange that this one verse should be inserted between the sealing of the 144,000 and the introduction to the trumpets which is well before the Second Coming. The purpose of the trumpets is to warn of something, in this case the Second Coming so why would they come after? However, verse 2 can be understood to be introducing a new scene so it could be. This would also suggest that a more appropriate point for the chapter break would be after verse 1. That heaven could be emptied at the Second Coming is suggested by:

"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:" (Matt 25:31)
"Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:38)
2. Time of Anticipation

This is the seventh and final seal so there could be great anticipation of what will be revealed. However, the wording seems to put the time of silence after the opening of the seal so that makes it less likely to be the real meaning.

3. Inauguration of 144,000

We have just read about the 144,000 - could this silence have something to do with them? Consider also that what follows is trumpets - warning messages. Perhaps the 144,000 are even involved in giving the warnings? "Angels" can be used to symbolically represent humans giving a message.

Here is a possibilty for the meaning of the silence that takes this into account. "Half an hour" can be viewed as a prophetic time of about 1 week:

1/2 hr is 1/48th of a day 1/48th of a year would be a little more than a week 365/48 = 7.6 days

Leviticus describes the consecration of the priests which required seven days:

"And ye shall not go out of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in seven days, until the days of your consecration be at an end: for seven days shall he consecrate you. As he hath done this day, so the LORD hath commanded to do, to make an atonement for you. Therefore shall ye abide at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation day and night seven days, and keep the charge of the LORD, that ye die not: for so I am commanded." (Lev 8:33-35)

The inauguration of the Levitical priests took place in the courtyard. Remember, the courtyard of the heavenly sanctuary is the earth - the place where the sacrifice of the heavenly system took place. There is an interesting clue about this in Revelation 11:

"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." (Rev 11:1-2)

Could this be a reference to judgment going on in heaven while the earth is under the control of the Gentiles?

The idea here is that heaven's focus is on the inauguration of the 144,000 servants of God on earth for a one-week inaugural period. There are other clues that this is related to the 144,000 and the beginning of their work that we will see in the next few verses before the first trumpet sounds.

Some weaknesses with this application are:

  1. It requires application of the day-for-a-year "principle"
  2. It does not work out to 7 days but 7.6
  3. While the inauguration of the Levitical priesthood took place outside of the tabernacle itself there is no indication that there was silence involved.

So there are three possibilities of the meaning of the silence in heaven. I tend to favour the first option but I may be wrong.

"And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets." (Rev 8:2)

Seven often designates completeness in scripture. Angels can mean messengers as was noted above. Trumpets are used for a variety of purposes. As warning of approaching danger:

"Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities." (Jer 4:5)
"O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction." (Jer 6:1)

To announce the day of the Lord:

"Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;" (Joel 2:1)

To draw attention to a very pointed and urgent message:

"Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." (Isa 58:1)

To call a meeting:

"Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:" (Joel 2:15)
"And 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 the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne." (Rev 8:3)

The altar mentioned here is the altar of incense - we are not yet in the Most Holy Place. Remember, we emphasized that the setting of Revelation 1-3 was the Holy Place because of the prominence of references to the candlestick. The setting of Revelation was also in the Holy Place because of the prominence of references to the table of showbread. Now, we have a reference to the altar of incense and there will be more as we go through this section.

Also, just before the description of the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we saw a picture of Jesus dressed as the high priest walking among the seven candlesticks. In Revelation 5, as the judgment scene is described, Jesus is portrayed as the Passover lamb standing at the throne of God (the table of showbread). Now we have come to the third piece of furniture in the holy place. It makes sense that Jesus has a role here as well as He intercedes for us before the Father. Christ is the medium of communication between God and man as He was pictured to Jacob in his dream of the ladder between heaven and earth.

"And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it." (Gen 28:12)

Here is a tabular summary of what is mentioned in the two paragraphs above:

Revelation Furniture Christ as:
chapters 1-3 candlestick high priest
chapters 4-5 table of showbread sacrifice
chapters 6-8 altar of incense intercessor

Note that it all happens in the holy place. Yet to come in the book of Revelation is Christ in His role as judge in the setting of the most holy place at the Ark of the Covenant.

"Much incense" could much be needed because it is being offered with much prayer?

The altar of incense was 18 inches square and three feet high. It was overlaid with gold. There were horns at the corners and a border around the top keep the coals on it. The incense was burned morning and evening.

"And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." (Rev 8:4)

The rising smoke of incense symbolizes prayer ascending to the throne of God:

Altar of Incense
"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours (margin = incense), which are the prayers of saints." (Rev 5:8)
"Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." (Psa 141:2)
"And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake." (Rev 8:5)

Here is an interesting and often-misunderstood verse. What was cast to the earth? Note that the word "it" is supplied. We often hear references to "the throwing down of the censer" and a connection to the close of probation - does that make sense? This action in verse 5 is followed by warnings. The location is still in the holy place, at the altar of intercession where prayers are ascending to God.

Are there any scriptural clues, anything similar to this verse that can help us understand?

"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me." (Isa 6:1-8)

What is happening in that passage? - Isaiah realized and confessed his condition, his lips were anointed and he was then ready to go with a message of warning. Can you see any similarities to the situation in Revelation 7 and 8? There was one coal to anoint Isaiah's lips. Perhaps a whole (big) censer full is required to anoint the 144,000. It is interesting that the word "purged" in Isaiah 6:7 is from the Hebrew word "kaphar" which is most often translated as "atonement."

It is important to recognize that verse 5 is not referring to the close of probation - that would be inconsistent with the fact that what follows is trumpets of warning.

It makes no sense to fill the censer with fire and then threw it - the censer - to the earth. In normal use, if the censer is filled with coals it is for the purpose of adding incense to it to make smoke. The coals are used in this case for a different purpose.

"And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound." (Rev 8:6)

How much preparation does an angel need to do to blow a trumpet? Here is a clue that there is more to it than simply an angel blowing a trumpet.

The First Trumpet

"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." (Rev 8:7)

Here, we need to go back to Rev 7:3

"Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." (Rev 7:3)

Are the earth, sea or trees hurt in the blowing of the trumpets? We can see that they are in the following verses. But why is it that always one-third of the items are affected? There may be a clue in this verse:

"And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born." (Rev 12:4)

This clearly is an act of Satan long before the trumpets of Revelation. This may be indicating that Satan in involved in this destruction.. It may also be a way of saying that God is still providing a degree of protection from the actions of Satan, the destroyer. Take note that in this understanding we are upholding the truth about the character of God - He is not the destroyer.

Once the 144,00 are sealed, are the angels commanded to hurt the earth? - no they are commanded to release the "winds" that result in events that hurt the earth - the angels are holding the winds to keep them from blowing.

Satan is always trying to deceive people with His counterfeits. We will see later that He will attempt to counterfeit even the Second Coming. If he was to do that it would make sense that it would suit his purposes of deception to precede that with events that could be seen to be a fulfillment of the seven last plagues.

Most people of the world that are not familiar with the Bible or the book of Revelation have only a vague concept of end-time-events and their order. Most people who have any concept of end-time events see it like this:

  1. a time of trouble
  2. the 7 last plagues
  3. the Second Coming
  4. a millennium of peace on earth

We see the seven trumpets as warnings to mankind. Could it be that Satan's reaction to the sealing of God's servants (the 144,000) and the sounding of their messages would be to inflict destruction and disaster upon the earth to divert attention from these messages and to set the stage for his impersonation of Christ's Second Coming? Basically, the events described under the trumpets (not the trumpets themselves) can be seen as Satan's reaction to God's efforts to warn and save mankind.

So, if this idea that the trumpets are a counterfeit of the plagues is true we should see some similarities between them. Here is a comparison between the trumpets and the plagues.

  Trumpets (Revelation 8-11) Plagues (Revelation 16)
 1  8:7 hail, fire, blood on 1/3 of trees, grass (cast upon the earth) 16:2 sore on those with mark (poured out upon the earth)
 2  8:8 burning mountain into sea, becomes blood 16:3 sea becomes blood
 3  8:9 1/3 of rivers, fountains of water bitter 16:4 rivers and fountains of waters became blood
 4  8:12 1/3 of sun, moon, stars darkened 16:8 sun scorches with great heat
 5  9:1-12 darkness; tormented 5 months 16:10 darkness; gnawed tongues for pain
 6  9:14 river Euphrates 16:12 river Euphrates
 7  11:15 great voices in heaven 16:17 great voice out of the temple of heaven
 7  11:15 kingdom of God 16:17 it is done
 7  11:19 lightnings, voices, thunderings earthquake and hail 16:18, 21 voices, thunders, lightnings, great earthquake and hail

It is interesting that the description of the trumpets is followed by a description of the woman clothed with the sun (Rev 12:1) and the description of the seven last plagues is followed by the description of the woman arrayed in purple and scarlet (Rev 17:4)

The hail of the first trumpet does not seem to correspond to the description of the first plague as closely as for the following trumpet/plague pairs but both are cast upon the earth. Also, earth, trees and grass are all used at times to represent people. The first trumpet does include hail which would certainly turn people's thoughts to the plagues.

When the first of the seven last plagues is poured out, God's people will be protected (as in the seven last plagues which fell on Egypt). The plagues will fall after the close of probation and will not harm the saved. It will only hurt those with the mark of the beast:

"And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image." (Rev 16:2)

The first plague makes a distinction between God's people and the lost. For Satan to inflict sores on the unrighteous would only make a distinction between them and the righteous and would not suit his purposes of deception.

He wants to deceive people into thinking that this plague is a judgment on them from God for not imposing the mark of the beast more forcefully. He doesn't want to be seen as the one responsible for the destruction; in fact, he has most of the world convinced that he doesn't even exist. He wants people to see the destruction as coming from God (thus maligning the true character of God) and that it is because everyone is not keeping his version of the law of God which includes the mark of the beast.

Why a Counterfeit?

Satan's objectives include that people take the mark of the beast rather than the seal of God. The mark of the beast is a big, and very-misunderstood topic which is well covered in this video The Mark of the Beast by Tom Stapleton of His Truth Seekers Ministry. Satan has another objective which is to receive worship and, I believe, he will go as far as to counterfeit the Second Coming in order to receive it.

"Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2 Thess 2:4)

He knows the order of events. In terms of major events and what most people understand, it is:

  1. a time of trouble
  2. the 7 last plagues
  3. the Second Coming
  4. a millennium of peace on earth

For Satan to counterfeit the second coming and make it seem at all convincing would require the insertion of some events that He has engineered:

  1. a time of trouble
  2. inserted - false 7 last plagues
  3. inserted - false second coming
  4. true 7 last plagues
  5. true Second Coming
  6. millennium

I believe these false 7 last plagues are the events described after each of the trumpets. Notice that the trumpets themselves are warning messages from God. It is the events that follow each trumpet - Satan's reaction to the messages given - that will cause the harm.

So if he can bring people to believe they have just experienced the seven last plagues, his version of the second coming will be all the more convincing.

I don't want to digress too far from the trumpets themselves so let's now look more closely at the language used in describing the events following the first trumpet.

"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." (Revelation 8:7)

It is not clear what form the fire and blood will be that are to be cast upon the earth.

Trees

Trees are often used to symbolize people. Note the following verses which all use the word "like" or "as" to compare people to trees:

"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, ... his leaf also shall not wither; ..." (Psa 1:3)
"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever." (Psa 52:8)
"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. (Psa 92:12)
"For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, ..." (Isa 1:30)
"They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands." (Isa 65:22)

It is even conceivable that trees represent leaders as distinct from grass used to represent the common people.

Grass

Here the seed or offspring who thirst (for righteousness?) come up as willows (trees) among the grass.

"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses." (Isa 44:3-4

There are quite a number of other verses that liken people to grass:

"Therefore their inhabitants were of small power, they were dismayed and confounded: they were as the grass of the field, and as the green herb, as the grass on the housetops, and as corn blasted before it be grown up." (2 Kings 19:26, Isa 37:27)
"The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." (Isa 40:6-8)
"And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men." (Micah 5:7)
"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:" (1 Pet 1:24)

See also: Num 22:4, Job 5:25. While there may be a spiritual way of understanding the effects mentioned in verse 7, it is no doubt describing literal effects upon the earth and its inhabitants. It will certainly get people's attention.

The Second Trumpet

"And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: 9 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." (Rev 8:8-9)

This will likely be literally fulfilled resulting in great destruction on the earth. Again, the references to "thirds" may be a way of referring to partial rather than total destruction. God has not totally withdrawn His protection from the inhabitants of the earth.

"Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth: and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain." (Jer 51:25)

The verse above is being addressed to Babylon. Jeremiah 51 is parallel to the fall of Babylon in Revelation. So there may be a connection in Revelation 8:8 to the end-time fall of Babylon.

Another burning mountain is mentioned in scripture:

"For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest," (Heb 12:18)

The mount referred to here is Sinai in the context of the giving of the Ten Commandments.

The sea can represent the populations of the whole world - we use the phrase "sea of humanity."

The Third Trumpet

"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;" (Rev 8:10)

Again, this may have a literal and a symbolic meaning. The most obvious understanding is a literal star (perhaps a meteor) falling to the earth. How it could fall on a third of the rivers and fountains of waters around the world is hard to grasp.

Symbolically, we could see Satan's fall from heaven as seeming to fit this:

"And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18)
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!" (Isa 14:12)
"And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth ..." (Rev 12:4)
"The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." (Rev 1:20)

Satan did fall from heaven and the fallen angels are likened to stars.

"Burning as it were a lamp:" might suggest, because of the wording, "as it were" a false interpretation of scripture. We are told:

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (Psa 119:105)

This could be referring to false interpretation of scripture which Satan, the fallen angel, would certainly be behind.

"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." (Rev 8:11)

Deuteronomy connects wormwood with false theology:

"Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; 19 And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: 20 The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven." (Deut 29:18-20)

The Fourth Trumpet

"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." (Rev 8:12)

This experience of Joseph likens the house of Israel to the sun, moon and stars

"And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me." (Gen 37:9)

Could the fourth trumpet be referring to a deception of God's people?

"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!" (Rev 8:13)

As bad as the events mentioned with the first four trumpets seem to be, those associated with the remaining trumpets are even worse.

Some translations render the word angel as eagle, an eagle being a harbinger of doom.

"For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." (Matt 24:28)

It is interesting to note that the first angel's message of Revelation 14 includes a call to worship God who made heaven and earth, the sea, and the fountains of waters:

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." (Rev 14:6-7)

You can see the correspondence between the reference to what God has made in Revelation 14 and what has been hurt during the time of the blowing of the trumpets:

First Four Trumpets (Rev. 8) First Angel's Message (Rev. 14)
1. Earth Earth
2. Sea Sea
3. Fountains of waters Fountains of waters
4. Heavens - sun, moon, stars Heaven

It would not make sense to give a call to worship God who made all those things if He had just caused so much damage to them. We will look more at the connection between the three angel's messages and the woes as we study Revelation 9.  


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