Scripture reading – Revelation 8
Our study in “The Revelation of the Apostle John” finds us in the midst of the Tribulation as we come in our search into Revelation 8. The setting continues to be the throne of heaven (Revelation 4:2), and the focus those things witnessed and recorded by John the apostle (Revelation 4-7). He had beheld God sitting on His throne, and holding in His right hand a book or scroll bearing seven seals (Revelation 5:1). (Some scholars have suggested the scroll was the deed to the earth, its inhabitants, and those things which were yet to come. Perhaps that is an apt depiction).
As John looked on, he heard the voice of a “strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?” (5:2) John wept when no one was found worthy to open the book (5:2). Yet, there was someone, and it was Christ whom the Scriptures described as “the Lamb” who stood by the throne of heaven (5:6). When He took in hand the scroll, John heard all creatures of heaven, earth, and sea lift up their voices and say, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (5:13).
When the first seal was opened, the first of four horsemen emerged riding on a white horse. I have identified him as the antichrist, and we know from Scripture he will proffer a peace treaty, and will rule a large part of the earth without going to war (Revelation 6:2). Christ then opened the second, third, and fourth seals, and each was followed by the emergence of a horsemen bringing with him death and destruction (6:3-8). The fifth and sixth seals followed, and introduced an ever-growing terror and a time of suffering such as the world had not known, Yet, the time of tribulation was only beginning (Revelation 6:9-7:17).
Revelation 8 – The Seventh and Final Seal
When the seventh seal was opened, the prophetic moment was so terrifying in its anticipation, that “there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (8:1). I have wondered, has there ever been a time past when heaven was silent? It seemed the angels looked in stunned, foreboding silence. By the time the seventh seal was broken, the earth was in the midst of great tribulation, and was filled with violence, suffering, sorrow, and death. What more could befall humanity and men not repent, and cry out to God for mercy?
Seven Angels Bearing Seven Trumpets (8:2-5)
John then saw seven angels, “which stood before God, and to them were given seven trumpets” (8:2). (The names of the angels were not given, but I wonder if the angel Gabriel was not one of the seven. Remember, he identified himself to Zechariah as one that did “stand in the presence of God,” Luke 1:19). Since ancient times, trumpets have been a means of communication. They have been employed in war, worship, announcing the coronation of kings, and sounding a warning of judgment.
The seven angels did not sound their trumpets, and John observed “another angel [that] came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer” (8:3). The heavenly altar was a “golden altar…[and] was before the throne” of God (8:3). The angel carried a golden pot of coals upon which incense burned (8:3b), and the smoke rising from the incense symbolized the “prayers of all saints” (perhaps the prayers of the tribulation saints, 8:3, 4). The “golden altar” was reminiscent of the altar of incense nearest the curtain that had separated the outer courts of the Tabernacle and Temple from the “Holy of holies” (wherein was the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat).
Suddenly, the silence of heaven was broken when the angel bearing the censer, “filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth” (8:5). The horror of judgment was heard from the earth as “there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake” (8:5).
The Blaring of Four Trumpets (8:6-12)
We read, “the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound,” and thus heralded a time of dreadful judgment should follow (8:6). The first trumpet sounded, and hail, fire, and blood fell from heaven to earth and one-third of the trees and grasses of the earth were burned (8:7). A second trumpet sounded, and John saw “a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood” (8:8). Perhaps describing a great volcanic explosion, the result was one third of sea creatures died, and one third of the ships at sea were destroyed (the hardships that would follow this catastrophe are unimaginable, 8:9).
The sound of the third trumpet brought a disaster caused by a great meteor or asteroid passing through earth’s atmosphere (described as a burning lamp or torch, 8:10). It fell to the earth and polluted the rivers and fresh waters (8:10). This astronomical wonder was called “Wormwood,” a plant with toxic leaves (8:11).
The fourth, of the seven trumpets, was a judgment that extinguished one third of the light of the sun, moon, and stars (8:12). Imagine the terror of the darkness, and the hardships caused when one third of the light and heat of the sun was eroded. Agricultural crops would fail, plunging temperatures would stifle growth in many regions, and death would ensue.
Closing thoughts (8:13) – A threefold angelic cry of “Woe,” followed the first four of the seven trumpets, and there were yet three more trumpets that would sound the terror of God’s judgment (8:13). I close with a couple of observations. The first, the “smoke of the incense” that was burned on the golden altar before God’s throne reminds us God hears the prayer of His people (8:3-4). Secondly, the judgments that followed the soundings of the trumpets remind us no sin of man will go unpunished.
Though the wrath and judgment of God will be poured out on the earth, I remind you, the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Will you turn your heart to the Lord, and receive his offer of salvation, before it is too late?
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