AND when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
3 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.
4 And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.
5 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.
6 And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
7 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.
8 And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
9 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.
10 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;
11 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.
12 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.
13 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!
With the seventh seal the cutting hour of the trumpets judgement has come. In contrast to the previous chapters, in which God is worshipped all the time, it was for half an hour still in the heaven. What did the seven angels before the throne of God probably think before they received their trumpets?
SELA – calls the pause to pause at the end of Psalm 46: Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
Alas, if we unbelievers could find rest from our own work, as it was prescribed on the seventh day, the Sabbath, to pause and understand what the Holy Spirit shares in Psalm 46, Hebrews 4, Joshua 6, and many other prophetic passages through his servants. Then we would see the similarities with the conquest of Jericho, where the seven trumpets were blown by seven priests.
On the command of Joshua, the people of Israel remained silent for six days when they were following the Ark of the Covenant around the city walls. The last, difficult to overcome obstacle on the way to the promised land had to be removed. A destructive war is not fun. Therefore, it is all the more important to escape or to change sides when disaster looms, as the courageous harlot Rahab did.
That long history of Jericho, the oldest built by human hands city in the plain of Jordan, bode as little protection from God’s punishment, as the protecting thick walls around the houses, whose inhabitants worshipped no real light in the moon and other idols. Later, they even rekindled old traditional atrocities through the blood sacrifice of their own children. He, who wants to come into the safe New Jerusalem, where Jesus has prepared mansions for his true disciples, must mercilessly eradicate out old customs and has to leave mysterious places, like Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon, which are addressed and judged in the further course of the revelation.
The sound of the trumpet can be heard from afar and is not only blown on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25, 9) or at the gathering of the people (Numbers 10, 7), but also at the second coming of the Lord (1 Cor. 15, 52). Before the first trumpet sounds, John sees an angel with a censer standing at the altar, to offer the prayers of the saints in front of the throne of God. The tabernacle and the temple are a reflection of heavenly things that let us understand God better.
In Luke 1 the same work is done by lot in the renovated religious wonder of Jerusalem from a certain priest named Zechariah. A multitude prayed silently in the temple and waited longer than usual, until he came back from burning incense with an awe-inspiring experience. Since doubting Zechariah left speechless, after he disagreed with the archangel Gabriel. But from the dried body of his Aaronic wife Elizabeth should really come forth John the Baptist. A voice of one crying in the wilderness to bring the people to repentance and to warn of the coming judgment.
Judgment announcing messages that prepare the coming of the Messiah have become rare today, but this is exactly what the eighth and ninth chapter are all about. The 5th seal of Revelation 6 consists of the souls of those who died as martyrs and ask how long it will be until their spilled blood is avenged. The unrepentant religious hypocrites were the ones who did not answer whether John the Baptist was sent from God or not. Exactly those scribes and Pharisees should be afraid of all blood that is screaming to the heavens; beginning with Abel up to Zechariah, who was killed between the temple and the altar. Their very blood will come back over the heads of the children of wrath, even though they built and decorated the graves of the slaughtered prophets (Matthew 23).
The Lord’s Prayer is the most commonly spoken prayer of Christians, with the request, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. However, I am not sure if every speaker of these words really wants in his heart that God is doing his will. The deliverance from evil may well take place differently than we ourselves might imagine. A striking example is the confrontation of Pharaoh who wouldn’t let go God’s people. Egypt, the land of the pyramids, is a picture of prosperity which leads everyone and everything to extremes. Standing at the top, Pharaoh made himself to god, thinking that he could grasp eternity in a vacant stare to the brightest star on heaven, coming out of his rigid body in the prison grave chamber.
To achieve this goal, his subjects were extremely enslaved, so that they even had to get themselves the straw for the building project (reminds me of the high employees targets of bonus bank managers). The rod of God wore a shepherd who had fled from the system as former adopted son of the princess, since he decided to suffer affliction and humiliation with the people of God. With the upcoming plagues Moses did not only confront the Pharaoh, but also mocked the gods which were worshipped in Egypt, because the idolized creatures literally came back on the people’s heads.
Every Bible student can guess now why the reverence of Egypt is obvious, for the plagues of the trumpets in revelation 8 are similar to the plagues described in Exodus, under which only the idolaters had to suffer. Through Moses and Aaron God did attack the ancient religious system, but Pharaoh hardened more and more his heart and did not repent, just as the wicked at the end of chapter 9. It was and is important to acknowledge the almighty and only God, who shows his power and strength. Only then we will succeed in our spiritual departure from a lost world of bondage and sin that brings death as wages.
Beside the voices, unmistakeably loud thunder, lightning, and an earthquake are the prelude to the first trumpet. This is just as awe-inspiring, like the appearance of God on Mount Sinai, when Moses received the ten commandments and the people stood in a distance trembling in fear (Exodus 20, 18). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; only fools despise wisdom and instruction,” is the Solomonian key in Proverbs 1 verse 7.
The first Angel unleashed horror through hail mixed with blood and fire that fall on the earth. One-third of the trees and the grass was burned, and again one-third is eliminated in the course of the trumpets to disaster. The fast-growing grass is an image of the mortality of the flesh (1 Peter 1, 24) and the longer lasting tree stands repeatedly for a leader or a nation (Judges 9, 8 & Ezekiel 31, 3).
In my search for the dropping out third in the Bible I strangely saw the mocking criminal at the left side of Jesus, who did not fear God in the hour of his death. Hanging on the cross, the criminal had no wisdom, for as a child of the devil he even tried to question Christ. On the other hand, the right malefactor rebuked this behaviour in recognizing that the Messiah had committed no sin and thus asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom (Luke 23).
Over him was written in three languages that Jesus of Nazareth is the King of the Jews. The king, with a kingdom not from this world, could promise to the faithful malefactor to take him to paradise. In an oil press garden (Gethsemane), the blood of the lamb flowed for the first time on the earth. The passion started, when the only approved son of God prayed so hard that his blood dripped from his forehead to the soil. The blood of Jesus speaks better than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12, 24) and comes back on the heads of those who reject it. In this context the reader should perceive the judgment of trumpets.
The visual language of Revelation is mysterious and repeatedly raises many questions. What is something like a mountain, which is thrown into the sea to destroy a third of the ships? The description of the second trumpet in the supernatural has many similarities with the eruption of Vesuvius on the ancient city of Pompeii. A hard blow that the Roman author Pliny tried to record 79 AD. Leaving aside this story, I make myself as usual on the search in the scriptures: Jesus paints verbally a picture of the mountain which is put into the sea (Matthew 17, 20 and ch. 21, 21). The commission to the disciples is to speak to the mountain, so that it moves into the sea. In the first case he rebuked them for their lack of faith, which made it impossible to cast out demons from the epileptic boy, and then Jesus cursed the fig tree (figure for Israel which has been scattered among the nations), so that it withered.
In relation to the casting out of demons, it is remarkable that the Legion begged Jesus to be allowed to enter in the 2000 pigs, in order not to end before the appointed time in the abyss. The result of the answered petition was that the grazing pigs on the mountain immediately went bonkers in landing at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee. In this way, the demonic determination still found the right target. Not less curious God’s judgment associated with mountains proceed in Jeremiah 51 and Ezekiel 38 from the destruction of Babylon to the punishment of hooked Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. No matter if we believe the prophecies or not, powers and kingdoms who are rising up against God will be crushed by the Rock of Ages (Daniel 2, 44 & 45).
A similar experience made long ago the beautiful morning star, who exalted himself above the throne of God (Ezekiel 28, 12-19, Isaiah 14, 12, Luke 10, 18). The coming judgment on Satan is written down, so that he, as God’s adversary, has not much time to drive people in the depths of hell (Hebrew: Sheol, Greek: Hades or Gehenna). This no return trip is extremely bitter for all deceived souls in the place originally prepared for Lucifer and his demons, where howling and gnashing of teeth will be. Seduction to adultery is sweet as honey and smooth as oil, but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword (Proverbs 5, 4). Extremely bitter was also the suffering of Jesus, when soldiers offered him wine mixed with gall, which he had to taste, but did not drink in the face of dead (Matthew 27, 34 and Hebrews 2, 9). Extremely bitter became a third of the waters from the fallen star wormwood at the sound of the 3rd trumpet.
Bubbling water sources are a picture of life that the refreshed reader has certainly already experienced by a vitalising swim or a quench of the thirst. Three days without fresh water had the grumbling people in the wilderness to endure until they came to Marah. There, the bitterness of the water has been turned through the wood (foreshadowing of the cross) into a healing sweetness (Exodus 15, 25). Therefore we all should follow the advice from John 4, 14: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
At all times were worshipped the sun, moon, and stars, instead of the invisible creator. A clear warning against this idolatry is found in Deuteronomy 4, 19: And lest thou lift up thine eyes upon heaven, and when thou seest the sun, moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. Joel 2, 10: The earth shall quake before him, the heavens shall tremble, the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
You may think now that we modern humans are anyway not affected by these words. Well, then let me ask a question: How about the superstition in our days of zodiac signs, horoscopes, or astrology? The preacher is repeatedly lamenting that there is nothing new under the sun since all is vanity and vexation. Reaching the end of Ecclesiastes we are warned: Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened…
The terrible day of the Lord arrives for many as Jesus predicted in Luke 21, 25 & 26: And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s heart failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
Something similar happened at the sound of the 4th trumpet, with the smiting of the third part of the sky that caused gloominess in a third part. This brought forth both, darkness and partial judgment, as in the ninth plague with three days of complete darkness over Egypt. However, the land of Goshen, with its residents who were descendants of Abraham, was as well spared, like the future believers, who lift up their heads to the sky, at the coming of their Lord, for their salvation is near. 2000 years ago, as a sign of God’s redemptive work, there came for three hours complete darkness over the land of Israel, until Jesus who hang on the cross shouted, “It is finished.” The separated from his father Saviour of the world drew our sins, breathed his last breath, and quoted with a broken heart Psalm 22: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? – My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Oh, if we only had a glimpse of what happens when the God who let the sun rise upon the evil and on the good, and brings rain upon the just and the unjust, will turn away his face from us.
Woe, woe, woe shouts the eagle, who can overlook everything from high up with his razor-sharp eyes, in an admonishing way. The seer John already saw three verses after the most cited, central passage in the Gospel about God’s love:
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil (John 3, 19).
The Old Testament prophets in the middle of the Bible are full of repeated woes, that we don’t want to hear, such as an excerpt from the 5th Chapter of Isaiah shows: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
The woes of Jesus in the New Testament were especially addressed to the Pharisees and scribes, whose contemporary names can be translated in preachers (politicians) and Bible teachers (dogmatists). Therefore, we should be on the alert of hypocritical people, even if they speak the truth, because in their hearts they are just as bad as their works.
Woe, woe, when the power of evil breaks out from the bottomless pit and gets visible, of which the corresponding ninth Chapter speaks.