Revelation 8: The Trumpets

Revelation 8  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The opening of the seventh seal is followed by silence in heaven for the space of half an hour. There is something intensely solemn in the thought of all heaven being hushed into silence under the awe-inspiring sense of events about to take place on earth.
For long ages evil had been increasing, Christ had been dishonored, God defied, and His people persecuted. In the presence of this ever-growing evil there had been no public intervention of God. But if God had remained silent, it was not that God was indifferent; for at last God was about to intervene, and the silence of the ages will be broken by the trumpets of God that announce His judgments.
The judgments under the first seals had been of a providential character. However severe, they were similar to visitations which had fallen upon men at different times, such as wars, famine, and pestilence. In the judgments that are prophetically announced at the opening of the seventh seal we see a more direct and manifest intervention of God. The sound of a trumpet would symbolize the fact that God is directly announcing that His judgments are about to fall upon man.
Revelation 8:2
John sees seven angels standing before God, to whom seven trumpets are given. It would thus appear that the last seal embraces the whole period of the judgments under the seven trumpets and thus carries us up to the time under the seventh trumpet when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15-18).
Revelation 8:3-6
Before these judgments commence we are permitted to see that God has heard the prayers of His people, and that in these judgments they will be answered. Today, when God is acting in sovereign grace, those who have the mind of heaven pray for the salvation of sinners, and their prayers are answered by the blessing of souls. In the day to come when God is acting in judgment, those who have His mind will rightly use the imprecatory Psalms, for, in common with the earthly saints of Old Testament days, they will reach their blessing through the judgment of their enemies. In contrast to these believers, the heavenly saints of this day reach their final blessing through being called away from the scene of judgment through the coming of Christ.
The prayers of these saints are presented to God by the angel at the altar with the golden censer, who adds incense to the prayers. Does not this angel represent Christ, Himself, who, as the Great High Priest intercedes for His people? It is said that His incense is offered with “the prayers of all saints.” May this not indicate that in these judgments we see an answer to the prayers of all the saints of Old Testament days, as well as those of the great tribulation?
The incense that goes up to God has an immediate answer in bringing judgment upon men, for the angel that offers the incense to God on behalf of the saints, casts fire upon the earth with the result that there is every sign of coming judgment, and the seven angels that had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
Revelation 8:7
The judgment under the first angel is accompanied with hail and fire mingled with blood. “Hail” may symbolize violent and destructive judgment; “fire” the all-consuming character of the judgment; and “blood” the death that follows through the judgment.
This judgment falls upon the earth, probably used as a symbol to set forth an ordered and prosperous portion of the world in contrast to uncivilized nations set forth by the sea. The “third part” in this and the three following trumpet judgments would limit the judgment to a restricted area. From chapter 12:4 this would seem to indicate the sphere of the revived Roman Empire. It may be the western part of the Roman Empire in contrast to the sixth trumpet, which is connected with the Euphrates or eastern portion, while the seventh trumpet tells us of a universal judgment (Rev. 11:15-18).
This judgment falls upon the trees and green grass. Often in Scripture trees are used as a symbol to set forth great men of the earth, while the green grass speaks of prosperity. It would thus seem that this first trumpet judgment falls upon Europe, or western part of the Roman Empire, dealing in judgment with the leaders and sweeping away all prosperity.
Revelation 8:8-9
In the judgment of the second trumpet John saw “as it were a great mountain burning with fire cast into the sea.” In Scripture we know that a mountain is used to symbolize a great and long-established power. Thus, Babylon is spoken of as a “destroying mountain,” and the LORD says “I will roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burning mountain” (Jer. 51:25). The sea, with its continued movement, is often used to set forth the nations in a state of unrest (see chapter 17:15).
This trumpet would thus appear to foretell the overwhelming destruction of a great world power, that in its fall will bring ruin and death upon a third part of the nations as their channel of subsistence is destroyed through commerce being brought to a standstill by the destruction of the ships.
Revelation 8:10-11
The judgment that follows the sounding of the third trumpet is symbolized by the fall of a great star upon the third part of the rivers. Does not a great star set forth some prominent leader of thought to whom men have looked for guidance? The rivers may set forth the sources of intellectual thought by which men seek to guide their lives? The fall of a great burning star would seem to indicate that in the judgment of God some intellectual leader is allowed to put forth false teaching, such, for instance, as evolution, which poisons the minds of men, bringing bitterness and moral death, or separation from God, upon a third part of the earth.
Revelation 8:12
The judgment of the fourth trumpet is set forth under the figure of a third part of the sun, and moon, and stars being smitten with darkness. The sun, moon, and stars are used in Scripture to set forth different grades of governmental authorities ordained of God. Do not these symbols suggest that a third part of the political powers will be smitten, leaving people in darkness and confusion in every walk of life?
Revelation 8:13
The three last trumpet judgments are distinguished from the first four by the announcement of the angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to them that dwell upon the earth, for the remaining voices of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound.”
It will be noticed that the first four trumpet judgments dealt more especially with the circumstances of life, symbolized by the trees, the rivers, the sun, moon, and stars. The last three trumpet judgments are more severe and terrible in their character, inasmuch as we shall see, they fall upon men, rather than their circumstances. They bring woe to that special class referred to as dwellers upon the earth—those who, like Cain, go out from the presence of the Lord and seek to build a world without God.