Revelation: Chapter 8
As seen in the chronology of Revelation, John is viewing these events of this chapter from heaven and observing the effects on earth.
The man of sin and the consequences of sin on the earth have been revealed with the opening of the first six seals by the Lord, as seen in Revelation 6:1-17. In 1Corinthians 4:4-5, Paul is speaking of an appointed time when God will judge believers for the works that they have done when they appear before the judgment seat of Christ, which follows the rapture of the church. Though this passage written by Paul is directed to the raptured saints, it has parallels to this time in Revelation. The pause is also used to reveal the great multitude that will turn to Christ as their savior during the tribulation period. The tribulation saints will endure considerable persecution, but the appointed time of those persecuting them is set, which is at the battle of Armageddon when Christ returns with His saints to establish His kingdom.
Revelation 7:1-17 began with a pause in activity before the opening of the seventh seal. During that pause, an order is issued to seal 144,000 individuals from 12 tribes of Israel. Also, during the pause the great multitude are revealed that will turn to Christ as their savior during the tribulation period.
The number seven normally signifies something being completed, such as the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowl judgments. Though the seventh seal is the final seal, it does signify the end of the reveling of sin on earth and its effects. It also ushers in the seven trumpet judgments. The seventh trumpet signals the end of the trumpet judgments, but it does not signify the completion of God's judgment on the earth. It introduces the final set of judgments, the seven bowl judgments. The seventh bowl judgment completes all God's judgment upon the earth.
Revelation 8:1 shows a tremendous contrast to the normal level of activity in heaven that John had observed to this point. Recall in Revelation 4:1-11, Revelation 5:1-14, Revelation 6:1-17, and Revelation 7:1-17 where there are constant sounds of joy, worship and praises being directed to God on His throne. In sharp contrast, there are 30 minutes of silence with the opening of the seventh seal, Revelation 8:1. The change may be due to the sober acknowledgment of the beginning of God's judgment against the world, now that the world's sins have been revealed through the opening of the seven seals. Recall in Daniel's prayer at the revelation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, which he declared that He (God) reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells in Him, Daniel 2:22. The reason for the duration is not given, but it may be parallel to the 30 days was given to mourn the death of a loved one such as the mourning of Aaron, Numbers 20:27-29. The silence will be replaced with sounds of judgment as well as the continuing praises unto God.
The focus in heaven now shifts in Revelation 8:2 to witness seven angels standing before God and each receiving a trumpet. As with the seals, it is likely that these judgments will proceed in an uninterrupted cadence, like a huge tsunami rolling onto shore where nothing can stop its advance or steer the wave. This is God's judgment and its consequence will be felt worldwide, but the effects are experienced by 1/3 of the world, as seen in the following verses. Scripture does not reveal what third of the world will be directly impacted. The first trumpet judgment is directed against the plant life and agriculture on earth, the second against maritime life and commerce, the third on the fresh water supply, and the fourth judgment is directed toward the celestial bodies that give light to the earth. The first four trumpet judgments are directed against the environment mankind lives in and needs to continue living. The next chapter introduces the 5th trumpet that is a direct assault on those persons who are not sealed by God for a fixed period of time. The 6th trumpet is a judgment on the whole world with the release of the four angels who are still bound at the great river Euphrates.
Revelation 8:3 begins the judgments of God by remembering the prayers of the saints. An angel is seen before the altar with a golden censer and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of the saints that were already before the throne. Before John reported seeing the 24 elders holding harps and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints, Revelation 5:8. Also, the prayers of the saints revealed with the opening of the fifth seal cried out for vengeance for their blood that was shed, Revelation 6:9-11.
In Revelation 8:4, John observes the smoke from the incense and the prayers of the saints go up before the throne of God. In Revelation 8:5, as a result of the angel hurling the censer to the earth there were four physical responses to this action. It reflects the approaching judgments from God, and breaks the 30 minutes of silence with the sounds of judgment; thunder, rumblings, flashes of lighting, and an earthquake. At the cross when Jesus gave up His spirit, a great quake occurred then because of the judgment that He took upon Himself for our sins, Matthew 27:50-54.
The trumpets, like the seals make up six discrete events. However, they do not necessarily last the entire period of time. The first three judgments only have a temporal and spatial effect, the fourth judgment does last to the end of the tribulation; the 5th judgment lasts only 5 months. The 6th judgment lasts through the end of the tribulation period. Throughout scripture, trumpets have a variety of uses and purposes, Numbers 10:1-10, but these trumpets serve to announce each successive judgment.
In Revelation 8:2, the scene begins in heaven before the throne of God. This begins the judgment and destruction of the Gentile era over Jerusalem and the world in preparation for the millennial reign of Christ, Daniel 2:20-23, Daniel 2:34-35, and Daniel 2:42-45. This begins the crescendo of events that leads to the fulfillment of what was prophesied by Isaiah 13:9-13. No other being in God's creation is responsible for these upcoming judgments, they are solely in the hands of God, and issued by Him. Seven angels who stood before the throne were each given a trumpet to notably sound each judgment of God against mankind. An example of this crescendo of events during the seven years of tribulation can be seen by following this link, a compressed view of the judgments during the tribulation. Not only has the sins of the world been revealed through the opening of the seven seals, but now the prayers of all the saints have been heard. All of these prayers that remained before the throne, are to now be answered. This is similar to Luke 18:2-8. Paul wrote to the Corinthians in like manner, 1Corinthians 4:5 concerning the believer, but here He is the light revealing the world's sins and its results upon itself.
In Revelation 8:3, an angel stood before the altar with a golden censer and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of the saints that were already before the throne. The picture to the left, is a rendition of Aaron offering prayers with a censor before the altar, in front of the curtain separating him from the Holy of Holies. Recall that John reported seeing the 24 elders holding harps and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints, Revelation 5:8. These prayers were connected with the slain Lamb worthy to take and open the sealed document and are directed to Him. These are like the days of Habakkuk when he cried to the Lord concerning the iniquity, lawlessness and violence in Judah and Jerusalem, Habakkuk 1:1-4. Also, the prayers of the saints revealed with the opening of the fifth seal cried out for vengeance for their blood that was shed, Revelation 6:9-11. The prayers that ascended to God’s throne, have been aggregated into the single censer and are being answered by requiring the innocent blood of the saints from those in the world who perpetrated those evil deeds. This is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, Isaiah 63:4, Romans 12:19.
In Revelation 8:4, John observes the smoke from the incense and the prayers of the saints go up before the throne of God.
In Revelation 8:5, as a result of the angel hurling the censer to the earth there were four physical responses to this action. It reflects the approaching judgments from God, and breaks the 30 minutes of silence with the sounds of judgment.
There are several steps in the process revealed to John to avenge the blood of the saints and answer the prayers of the saints. This directly relates to the Mosaic system of sacrifice and offerings as observed by the Levitical priests:
- First, the angel with the censer stood at the altar with much incense to offer it with the prayers of all the saints before the throne, Revelation 8:3
- Second, incense with the prayers of the saints ascended up before God, Revelation 8:4
- Third, the angel took the censer, filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it on the earth, Revelation 8:5
- There were four physical responses which reflect the approaching judgments from God
- Flashes of lighting
- An earthquake
In Revelation 8:6, there are seven angels seen who are now prepared to sound their trumpets, as all the sins have been revealed and the prayers of the saints have been heard, which Paul spoke of at Mars Hill in Athens Greece, Acts 17:29-31. This period of judgment was revealed throughout time, Romans 1:18-20. The magnitude and terror of the “day of the Lord” are summarized in Joel 1:15-20.
Like the opening of the seals, there appears to be one event followed soon by another, but there is no discrete interval of time given between the sounding of one trumpet to the next. It appears that the first six trumpets will conclude during the first half of the tribulation period.
Additionally, as with the seven churches that were divided into a group of four and a group of three based on the word “Remember,” the trumpets are similarly grouped. The first four trumpets impact the environment directly, the last three trumpets impact man directly. In the trumpet judgments, the impact is limited in time and space, but their affect is felt worldwide.
In Revelation 8:7, the first trumpet is sounded. John sees hail and fire mixed with blood hurled upon the earth. The result is:
- 1/3 of the earth is burned up
- 1/3 of the trees are burned up
- All of the green grass is burned
To gain a sense of dimension, 1/3 of the earth covers in longitude, 120o out of 360o, or from the coast of California to Greenwich, England, covering both the northern and southern hemispheres.
Though the judgment in Exodus was limited to the land of Egypt (except the land of Goshen), it is similar to this trumpet judgment on the whole world, Exodus 9:22-26. On the timeline for Revelation 8, the chart only shows a limited duration, as the vegetation will grow back from the effects of the first trumpet. Also, following this link, comparing the judgments with the plagues, will provide a listing of all the judgments in Revelation and those against Egypt during the Exodus.
In Revelation 8:8-9, a second trumpet sounded. Something like a huge mountain all ablaze was thrown into the sea that resulted in:
- 1/3 of the sea turned to blood
- 1/3 of the living creatures in the sea died
- 1/3 of the ships were destroyed
One may be tempted to assign the origin of these judgments’ physical nature to what we can observe or known to exist in the universe and on earth. But all these judgments, like those against Egypt in Exodus, and Sodom and Gomorrah, were all directed by God at His Word, not sourced alone by natural causes.
This is similar to the Egyptian plague in Exodus 7:19-21 where the sea was turned to blood. As with the 1st trumpet, on the timeline for Revelation 8, the chart only shows a limited duration, as the life and commerce on the seas may recover over time.
In Revelation 8:10-11, the third trumpet is sounded. John observed a great meteor ablaze as it fell through the atmosphere and affected 1/3 of the rivers and springs. The name of the star is Wormwood, and as a result of 1/3 of the waters becoming bitter, leading to the deaths of many people. During the Exodus, the children of Israel were faced with similar circumstances with bitter waters. At that time, God healed the waters by having Moses throw a piece of wood into the water to heal them, Exodus 15:22-26. Much later in their history, Israel was judged with bitter waters during King Nebuchadnezzar's conquests against Jerusalem, Jeremiah 9:13-16. It is likely that those who have turned to believe and follow the Lord Jesus Christ will not suffer from these judgments directly since they will have been sealed by the Holy Spirit.
Incredibly, Revelation 8:12, a fourth trumpet is sounded and results in:
- 1/3 of the sun was struck
- 1/3 of the moon was affected and darkened
- 1/3 of the stars were affected and darkened
The consequences are similar to Exodus 10:21-23:
- 1/3 of the day will be without light, or about four hours of less of daylight will shine on the earth in a 12-hour day
- Likewise at night, the light from the moon and stars will be cut by 1/3, and there will be increased darkness
Unlike the first three trumpets, the timeline for Revelation 8 shows the duration of this judgment to continue through to the end of the tribulation.
In Revelation 8:13, John observes an angel (the NIV interprets this as an eagle) flies in the air, where the scene is still about the throne of God. John hears the angel announce that three woes are yet ahead for the inhabitants of earth. This is the beginning of another apparent pause in the succession of trumpet blasts as the latter three will bring greater calamities upon the earth and its inhabitants than the first four trumpets. However, the next three trumpet blasts constitute only the first of three woes, to other woes are associate with other individuals in Revelation 11:1-19 and Revelation 12:1-17.