Revelation
1-7 The Seventh Seal and the First Trumpet 8-13 The Second, Third and Fourth Trumpet
The Seventh Seal and the First Trumpet

1When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 2And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. 6And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. 7The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

V11When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.. With the breaking of “the seventh seal” the book is totally open. That means that the time of the end has come, for it was said to Daniel of this book that he had to seal it till the time of the end (Dan 12:4,94But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”9He said, “Go [your way], Daniel, for [these] words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.). That means that the time has come that many prophetically announced events will be fulfilled. With a view to that a deathly silence arises in heaven. It is the silence before the storm that is about to break loose, a silence in which everything and everybody holds his breath with a view to what is going to happen.

That there is mention of “about half an hour” seems to be a symbolic indication for a very short period of time. It is presumably the period in which happens what John sees in the verses 2-42And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.3Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.. In the following verses the first trumpet judgments are executed.

It is also possible that the “silence in heaven” of half an hour shows something of the mercy of God. God is slow to anger. He doesn’t like to judge, it is an unusual act of His (Isa 28:2121For the LORD will rise up as [at] Mount Perazim,
He will be stirred up as in the valley of Gibeon,
To do His task, His unusual task,
And to work His work, His extraordinary work.
; Lam 3:3333For He does not afflict willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.
). The judgments under the sixth seal have not led to conversion. In connection to that there is a half an hour longer wait. When there is no sign of repentance to be noticed, God has to come into action which implies that the judgments break loose under the trumpets.

V22And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.. While there is, most likely, a deathly silence in heaven, preparations are being made in that silence for the trumpet judgments. John sees “the seven angels stand before God”. That seems to indicate that it is about seven specific angels (the seven angels) who find themselves in an exceptionally privileged position (before God). These seven angels with their seven trumpets form together the judgment of the seventh seal.

Each of them receives a trumpet. No one else than the Lord Jesus could have given them those trumpets. That there is mention of “trumpets” here, means that God speaks with a loud voice through the means of the judgments which are being poured out at the sounding of each trumpet. A trumpet which is sounded is a command for attention.

V33Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.. Then “another angel” comes. That is again nobody but the Lord Jesus (cf. Rev 10:11I saw another strong angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire;; 18:11After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.), for only He is able to give strength to the prayers of the saints. He came and “stood at the altar”. An altar is an offering place where offerings are brought to God. At the end of this verse it is said that it is a “golden altar” and that it is “before the throne”. The offering place bears the mark of Divine glory (of which the gold speaks). The offering which is offered here to God, is not a bloody offering, but it consists of “the prayers of all the saints”. Regarding the prayers, you read that they are compared with incense (Psa 141:22May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.
). Each sincere prayer is pleasing to God and will be answered by Him.

Because it regards the prayers of ‘all’ the saints, it is nice to consider that at that very moment the prayers will be answered which through the ages have been sent up to heaven by all the saints. But it concerns indeed the prayers of the believers who do not belong to the church. That becomes clear from the fact that these prayers are not related to the throne of grace, but to the throne of judgment.

In the time of the great tribulation the saints cry out to ‘the God of vengeance’ (Psa 94:11O LORD, God of vengeance,
God of vengeance, shine forth!
) to come into action. They ask of Him to judge the ungodly, from which they will be saved. This is again a proof that the church is not on earth anymore, for we are told to pray for those who persecute us and to bless them and not to curse them (Mt 5:4444But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,; Acts 7:6060Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.).

Each prayer only gets its full value to God because the Lord Jesus has a golden censer with much incense in it. The intention of it is also described: “That he might add it to the prayers of all the saints.” Nobody but He is able to give strength to the prayers of all saints (cf. Rev 5:88When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.). He is the true High Priest. Everything you offer to God is only pleasing to God through Him (Heb 13:1515Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.; 1Pet 2:55you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.).

‘Incense’ represents the personal glories of the Lord Jesus, which became visible in His life on earth and His dying on the cross. When you then especially consider prayer, you read of Him that His whole life on earth was ‘prayer’ (Psa 109:4b4In return for my love they act as my accusers;
But I am [in] prayer.
). Therefore His life was a sweet incense to God.

V44And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.. Everything that the Lord Jesus is as a Man to God ascends together with the prayers of the saints to God. It says also distinctly “before God out the angel’s hand”. In this way the involvement of the Lord Jesus with the prayer of the saints is presented greater than when the incense of the altar would be ascending up to heaven.

V55Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.. When the censer is empty, when the prayers have reached their destination, the Angel returns to the altar with the empty censer. He fills the censer with the fire of the altar which He afterwards throws on the earth. Here you see that the Lord Jesus gives as it were the starting signal for the judgments. When the fire is being thrown on the earth, impressive accompanying signals are to be experienced.

1. The “peals of thunders” make clear that God speaks through the judgments.
2. “Sounds” are no rumbling noises at a distance, but horrible deafening blows that make everything shake.
3.  “Flashes of lightning” put everything in the light and are blinding.
4. “An earthquake” causes that the earth suddenly is ripped open under the feet and that every hold is taken away.

The fire is taken from the burnt offering altar on which it burns ceaselessly. The burnt offering altar is the place where the burnt offering is consumed by fire, for the benefit of those who are reconciled and sanctified by it. But that same fire is also used to consume those who have no part in the burnt offering. That the fire is put into the censer first, indicates that the following judgments are related with the prayers of the saints and in that way are the answers to those prayers. It is altogether symbolic language in order to clarify the exercise of these judgments.

V66And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.. Then it is the angels’ turn to exercise their duty. They prepare themselves to sound the trumpets that were given to them. A trumpet announces the judgment, but it also serves as a warning signal, so that people will escape the declared judgments (Eze 33:2-42“Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,3and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people,4then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his [own] head.). The destruction and siege of Jericho was also preceded by the sounding of trumpets (Jos 6:44Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.). That will also happen when the judgments and the taking possession of the earth will come to pass.

Like often, here also the number seven can be divided in four and three. Just like the first four seals make one whole, the first four trumpets also do. These four are related to the creation, subdivided according to the four domains: the earth, the sea, the rivers and springs of waters, and the sun, the moon and the stars (cf. Rev 14:66And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;). However, it does not regard the whole world, for there is still mention of “the third part”.

V77The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.. When the first angel sounds, “hail and fire, mixed with blood … were thrown to the earth”. “Hail” is a judging power that comes from heaven (Rev 11:1919And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.; 16:2121And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, *came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague *was extremely severe.; Exo 9:23-2423Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt.24So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.; Isa 28:22Behold, the Lord has a strong and mighty [agent];
As a storm of hail, a tempest of destruction,
Like a storm of mighty overflowing waters,
He has cast [it] down to the earth with [His] hand.
; Eze 38:2222With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone.). “Fire” is God's consuming judgment (Rev 20:1010And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.; Lk 16:2424And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’). “Blood”, separated from the body, speaks of death (Rev 16:33The second [angel] poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like [that] of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.). The fact that hail and fire are mingled with blood therefore means that those judgments will result in death.

The fire does its work and consumes the world wherever there is still a certain order of government (“the earth”). Arrogant powers (“the trees”, Dan 4:19-2719“Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, [if only] the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries!20The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth21and whose foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which [was] food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged—22it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.23In that the king saw an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze [around it] in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,”24this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:25that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.26And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that [it is] Heaven [that] rules.27Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by [doing] righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to [the] poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’) will be consumed, just like prosperity (“all the green grass”, Isa 15:66For the waters of Nimrim are desolate.
Surely the grass is withered, the tender grass died out,
There is no green thing.
). Grass represents both Israel (Isa 40:77The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
) and the whole human race (1Pet 1:2424For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off,). Because of the mention of the green grass, it may probably emphasize that it relates to man in his prosperity.

In this verse “burned up” occurs three times. It is a verb that indicates ‘completely burned up’. It is about being burned to the ground. Although I prefer a symbolic explanation of this trumpet judgment, it is not unthinkable that this judgment is to be taken literally. It seems very difficult to me to consider a literal event in connection to each trumpet judgment. I would like you to ponder on that yourself, without letting your fantasy run free. Of course that also applies to myself. Therefore you need to read even more carefully what I propose to you as a possible explanation.

“A third part of the earth” means that the judgments will strike a limited territory and not the whole earth. It has all the appearances that this “third part” regards to the nominal Christian part, the false Christianity, which very probably may refer to the restored Roman empire or the united Europe (Rev 12:44And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.). That is my opinion, because in this part of the world the light of the gospel has shone most clearly. That makes the responsibility of the people who live here even greater than that of other people. And God always begins with His judgment with those who are most responsible (cf. 1Pet 4:1717For [it is] time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what [will be] the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?; Lev 10:33Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’”
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.
).

Now read Revelation 8:1-7 again.

Reflection: What does the power consist of which is given to the prayers of the saints by the Angel?


The Second, Third and Fourth Trumpet

8The second angel sounded, and [something] like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, 9and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed. 10The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter. 12The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way. 13Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

V88The second angel sounded, and [something] like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood,. When the second angel sounds the trumpet, something like “a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea”. After the earth also the sea will be the object of judgment. The sea represents the disordered world (Isa 17:1212Alas, the uproar of many peoples
Who roar like the roaring of the seas,
And the rumbling of nations
Who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters!
; 57:2020But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
For it cannot be quiet,
And its waters toss up refuse and mud.
), lands where revolution and anarchy are in control, in contrast to the earth of verse 77The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.. Great powers will go down in there, while other powers will come out of them.

The great mountain, or anyway something which reminds us of that, is a symbol of a strong worldly power (Jer 51:2525“Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain,
Who destroys the whole earth,” declares the LORD,
“And I will stretch out My hand against you,
And roll you down from the crags,
And I will make you a burnt out mountain.
; Isa 2:22Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
; Dan 2:3535Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.; cf. Psa 46:33Though its waters roar [and] foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
). This is not the restored Roman empire, for that will not go down in the sea of nations, but will arise from it (Rev 13:11And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns [were] ten diadems, and on his heads [were] blasphemous names.). Some interpreters refer to the United States. This great power is burning with fire. It is an object of God's wrath.

V99and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.. The fall of this burning great power sows death and destruction in the midst of a third part of the nations. The third part of the inhabitants of these nations will die. The fall of the great power also causes the destruction of “the third of the ships”. That may probably indicate that parts of trade and communication will be paralyzed, which for example will cause it to be impossible for relief supplies to be imported from countries that are further away.

V1010The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters.. At the sounding of the third angel “a great star fell from heaven”. Just like with the first two trumpets, there is also mention of fire here. Only it is not that much about a consuming fire here, but about something that burns “like a torch”. The effect is also to be compared with the previous trumpets, for here also many men die (verse 1111The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.). However, there is still a difference. The cause of death is not fire, but wormwood, which is caused by this star.

The star is a symbol of a ruler that should radiate heavenly light (Rev 1:2020As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.). You may think of a great person with authority or a religious powerful system, probably somebody who or something that impresses people, in the expectation that he or it will supply religious leadership to the (western) world. This star will not be thrown like it happened in the previous verses, but will fall down from heaven (Isa 14:1212“How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
). It will burn like a torch and in that way it is an imitation of the seven Spirits of God (Rev 4:55Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And [there were] seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God;). That leads to the thought that this star concerns a spiritual power. The Spirit of God spreads the truth; this star spreads lies and destruction, doctrines of demons (1Tim 4:11But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,).

The star falls on “a third of the rivers and on the springs of water”. “Rivers” represent the normal life of a nation which is characterized by certain principles. “Springs” refer more to the influences that are based on the principles. In the symbolism of this description you may say that this star causes the destruction of spiritual springs instead of giving a wholesome heavenly light.

After the two domains on which life happens (earth and sea) are struck by the previous trumpets, now the springs of life that determine the quality of life are struck. You recognize this if you for instance look at marriage and family. Marriages and family were given by God as a spring of happiness. When this is separated from God, it becomes a spring of unhappiness. Or: the womb is a spring of life, but separated from God life is being killed there, which now has become a large place of murder. That's what makes life bitter.

V1111The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.. Wormwood represents bitterness (Pro 5:44But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two-edged sword.
). That's what this ruler causes to those who find themselves within his reach. All people who think to find delight in him, will notice that they have drunk death. The water is not only bitter, but it also appears to be poisonous. Dying does not imply the physical death, but the moral death, which means that there is absolutely no connection with what God has given concerning the good things in creation. Therefore there is no possibility to enjoy those things anymore. Life becomes altogether bitterness and embitterment. As a believer you therefore need to watch out for becoming embittered for whatever reason (Heb 12:1515See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;). Embitterment strangles the life within yourself and also within others.

V1212The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way.. The trumpet judgments take away the life of people step by step and sacrifice them to the powers and forces of death. The fourth angel sounds. That causes that the celestial bodies are struck which were ordained to give light on the earth (Gen 1:14-1914Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years;15and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.16God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; [He made] the stars also.17God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,18and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.19There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.). The punishment of this judgment is the removal of light. In that way another spring of life is struck, for without light life cannot grow and flourish.

Of sun and moon it is said that they ‘rule’ (Gen 1:1616God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; [He made] the stars also.). Stars serve to give us orientation. These celestial bodies refer to the whole system of the government in all its parts, from the highest authority to its lowest form. These light bearers, authority figures in different layers, will be partly (“a third”) clothed in darkness. That takes every orientation which they could have offered, away from them, both in daytime and during the night.

V1313Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”. After the fourth trumpet has sounded John sees and hears “an eagle flying in midheaven”. An eagle is the symbol of the speed with which the judgment is exercised. It sees its prey from a far distance and dives at a high speed to catch it. The eagle flies “in midheaven”, so that it is to be seen and heard by everyone on earth. It announces the judgment of the remaining three trumpets.

Because of fierceness of these three trumpets the eagle cries out a threefold “woe”. This threefold ‘woe’ is like the fifth, sixth and seventh trumpet. Therefore the last three trumpets also make a whole. The three coming trumpet judgments or woes do not strike so much the circumstances wherein people find themselves, like it has been most often the case up to now, but they now strike the people themselves and are therefore not indirect judgments anymore.

These people are indicated as “those who dwell on the earth”. In Revelation this expression always regards those who feel themselves at home on earth and for whom that's the purpose of life. Nothing else matters for them. God has no place in their thinking and life. Therefore they will be judged with the earth, which they love that much and to which they attached their fate. Believers do not ‘dwell’ on the earth, but they are pilgrims there. Their home is heaven (Phil 3:2020For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;).

The judgments that follow are horrible, whereby that of the third woe, which includes the seven bowls, are the most horrible ones. The first ‘woe’ will come over the unsealed Jews, the second ‘woe’ will strike the Christless Christianity.

Now read Revelation 8:8-13 again.

Reflection: What actually is struck by judgments in this portion?


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