The Book of REVELATION
James J. Barker
THE SEVENTH SEAL AND THE SEVEN TRUMPETS
chapter 8 opens with the opening of the seventh seal.
- The first six seals were opened in chapter 6.
- Revelation 7 is
parenthetical; the narrative does not advance. Therefore, Revelation 8:1 is picking up
where Revelation 6:17 left off.
- You will recall
there are seven seal judgments, seven trumpet judgments, and seven vial (some
prefer to use the word "bowl") judgments.
- The seven
trumpets are included in the seventh seal, and then the seven vials are included
in the seventh trumpet.
- Contained in
the seventh seal are all the subsequent judgments leading up to the second
coming of Christ, including the seven trumpets and the seven
- W. Graham
Scroggie said it is "incorrect to speak of the Trumpets as following the Seals.
They do not follow, but are the Seventh Seal."
- In like manner
the vials constitute the seventh trumpet.
Again I will quote Scroggie: "Therefore the Bowls do not double back
over the Seal and Trumpet Judgments; neither is it correct to say that they
follow the Trumpet visitations. They do not follow because THEY ARE THE SEVENTH
TRUMPET CONTENTS" (cited by Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus
- Therefore, the
opening of the seventh seal brings us to the end of the tribulation. In emphasizing the important character
of this seventh seal, Revelation 8:1 says that there was silence in heaven about
the space of half an hour.
- This time of absolute silence indicates something
tremendous is about to take place.
It is like the calm before a big storm. John Walvoord said, "It may be
compared to the silence before the foreman of a jury reports a verdict; for a
moment there is perfect silence and everyone awaits that which will follow"
(The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
- Trumpets were used in various ways in Old Testament
times. They were sounded at times of public assembly. They were used to direct soldiers in
time of war.
- But often trumpets signify judgment. Joel 2:1 says,
"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."
- Joshua 6:20, when the priests blew their trumpets, the
walls of Jericho "fell down flat."
- Gideon said in Judges 7:18, "When I blow with a trumpet,
I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all
the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of
- In Revelation 8:3, "another angel" is seen standing
before the altar in heaven. The
altar in heaven is referred to seven times in the book of Revelation (6:9;
8:3, 5; 9:13; 14:18; 16:7).
- The temple in heaven is associated with terrible
judgment on earth. For example,
after the seventh angel sounded, "the temple of God was opened in heaven"
(11:19; cf. 15:5-8; 16:1, 17).
- The angel in Revelation 8:3 has a golden censer offering
incense and the prayers of the saints before the throne of God. This is a
beautiful picture of the prayers of the saints as seen from heaven (cf.
- In the Bible, incense is symbolic of worship and prayer
and is a reminder that intercession to the Lord has the character of sweet
- The references to trumpets, the altar, incense and
golden censer serve to remind us that the focus is on Israel, not the New
Testament church. The church has
already been raptured, and the focus is on what the prophet Jeremiah calls "the
time of Jacob's trouble" (30:7).
- The incense speaks of the perfections of Christ and His
ministry of intercession.
- Our petitions ascend up before the throne of God, along
with this sweet-smelling incense, reminding us again of the importance of
fervently and earnestly praying in the name of the Lord Jesus
- In Revelation 8:5, the angel took the golden 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."
- The voices, thunderings, lightnings, and earthquake
symbolize that the golden censer is a symbol of judgment (cf. 8:7, 8,
- This is apparently in response to the intercession and
prayers of the suffering saints in the midst of the great tribulation (cf. 6:9,
- This scene sets the stage for the seven trumpet
judgments and the seven vial judgments (8:6).
THE FIRST TRUMPET (8:7).
- In response to
the sounding of the trumpet held by the first angel, a scene of desolation is
spread abroad upon the earth caused by hail and fire mingled with
- The judgment
will be directed to vegetation, and a third part of the trees and all the green
grass are burned (cf. 7:3).
- This judgment
is similar to the tenth plague in Exodus 9:18-26. Exodus 9:24 says, "So there was hail,
and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none
like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation."
- As in the case
of the four seals (the four horsemen), the first four trumpets form a special
unit in contrast to the last three trumpets.
- The plagues
indicated by the first four trumpets are entirely inflicted on natural objects,
such as the earth, trees, grass, sea, rivers, and the sun, moon, and
stars; whereas those indicated by the next two judgments are inflicted on
men, and not on natural objects (9:4, 15).
- Just as the
seventh seal contained the seven trumpets, the seventh trumpet contains the
THE SECOND TRUMPET (8:8,
- At the sound of
the trumpet held by the second angel, another great judgment falls upon the
earth, this time dealing with the sea (8:8, 9).
- In this
fantastical vision, John sees "a great mountain burning with fire" which is cast
into the sea.
- A third part of
the sea becomes blood, a third part of the creatures of the sea die, and a third
part of the ships are destroyed.
- Once again
there seems to be a parallel to the plagues of Egypt. Just as the River Nile and
all other bodies of water in Egypt were turned to blood when Aaron stretched out
his rod over the waters of Egypt, so this "great mountain burning with fire"
will apparently have a similar effect upon the sea.
- "And the third
part of the sea became blood" (8:8).
- "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" (8:9).
- John Walvoord
says, "The probability is that all life and all ships are destroyed in one
portion of the earth, the area nearest to the impact of the great burning
mountain" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
THE THIRD TRUMPET (8:10,
- When the third
trumpet sounds, John sees a great star burning as it were a lamp falling upon
rivers and fountains of water.
- It is named
“Wormwood” and will apparently cause the water to be bitter, resulting in the
death of many people.
- Jeremiah refers
to wormwood in Jeremiah 9:15, "Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God
of Israel; Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood, and give
them water of gall to drink."
- And Jeremiah
23:15 says, "Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets;
Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall:
for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the
- "He hath filled
me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood" (Lamentations
mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall" (Lam.
- Like the first
and second trumpet, it is best to take the prophecy of the third trumpet
- A few weeks
ago, I referred to David Cooper's "golden rule of interpretation," which says, "When the
plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other
- It makes perfect sense that God is going to judge this
wicked, sin-loving, Christ-rejecting world, and a great burning
star falling down from heaven is not difficult for us to understand.
- In the Bible, fire often represents the judgment of
God. Deuteronomy 32:22 and 23 says,
"For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and
shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of
the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon
- The picture of God heaping fire down upon the heads of
wicked sinners is seen elsewhere in Scripture. For example, Genesis 19:24 says, "Then
the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD
out of heaven."
- Surely, impenitent sinners deserve to be judged for
their wickedness. Many years ago,
Jonathan Edwards preached, "The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation
does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is
now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering
sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them"
(Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God).
- The "great star," called Wormwood, seems to be a
heavenly body or a mass from outer space, burning with the fierce wrath of God
as it enters the atmosphere of earth, and falls upon the third part of the
rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.
- The reference to wormwood reminds us of the experience
of the Israelites at the waters of Marah, recorded in Exodus
- There the tree cast into the bitter waters made the
water sweet. Here the wormwood cast into the sweet water will make it bitter.
- Walvoord said, "Such also is the contrast between Christ
on the cross atoning for sin and making that which is bitter sweet and Christ
coming in judgment which turns the vain hopes and ambitions of men into
bitterness and despair. The result of this trumpet is to inflict a divine
judgment from God upon men themselves."
THE FOURTH TRUMPET (8:12,
- In contrast to
the first three judgments having to do respectively with land, sea, rivers, and
fountains of water, the fourth trumpet relates to the heavens themselves -- the sun, the moon, and the
- As John
witnesses the scene, he sees a third part of the sun, a third part of the moon,
and a third part of the stars darkened, an eclipse that extends to a third part
of the day and a third part of the night.
- This disruption
of light from heaven is a solemn warning of other judgments which will soon
- Revelation 8:13
indicates that the last three trumpets will be far more severe in character than
the first four -- "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth!"
- "The earth is
warned of judgment to come. The trumpet judgments, which have their beginning in
this chapter, confirm the predictions of Christ and the Old Testament prophets
of the coming time of tribulation far worse than anything the human race had
ever experienced before" (Walvoord).
- There are
different ways to understand these trumpet judgments. It has been pointed out that the first
four trumpets deal with aspects of the physical world which men often take for
granted. "The beauty and benefit of the trees, the luxury and growth of green
grass are seldom occasions for thanksgiving to the living God. In a similar way,
men are prone to take for granted the blessings of water, whether it be the
beauty of the sea, the majestic flow of great rivers, or the pure fountains and
springs which abound in the natural world. These too are gifts from a loving God
to an undeserving world, and they come under the blight and judgment described
in the second and third trumpets" (Walvoord).
- On the other
hand, many worldly people (pagans, environmentalist fanatics, "green people,"
etc.) worship God's creation, but they do not worship God the Creator. "Who changed the truth of God into a
lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is
blessed for ever. Amen" (Romans 1:25).
- The sun, moon,
and stars are the handiwork of God, and are frequently mentioned in Scripture as
a reminder of God’s power, sovereignty, and wisdom.
- Psalm 19:1
says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his
- Romans 1:20 says, "For the invisible things of him from
the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that
are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without
- God is going to judge this wicked world, and sinners
will have no excuse.
- As fearful as these judgments are, they are only the
beginning of God’s judgment upon the earth. Three woes are still to fall.
- Revelation 6:17 says, "For the great day of his wrath is
come; and who shall be able to stand?"
- Today is the day of grace, but soon it will be "the
great day of his wrath."
- Now is the time
to get right with God.
- Now is the time
to win our friends and loved ones to Christ.
- Revelation 8:13
says, "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth."
- "The inhabiters
of the earth" is a term found often in the book of Revelation. It refers to deluded sinners, deceived
and blinded by the devil, and under the just condemnation and wrath of
- W.A. Criswell
describes these "inhabiters of the earth" this way: "It is addressed to those
who make this world their home...They do not have God in their hearts...Their
Utopia is down here. They say, 'We
like it here; this pleases us.'
Their paradise is down here.
Their hopes are down here.
Their life is down here...The truth of God is not in their hearts"
(Expository Sermons on Revelation).
- H.A. Ironside
says this, "They are the people who have rejected the heavenly calling. When God offered them full and free
salvation through the death of His beloved Son, they turned away from Him,
because to have closed in with Christ would have meant to give up their worldly
desires and love of sin"