Revelation 8

Revelation 8  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
THE tribes of Israel having been sealed for preservation, and the curtain also drawn aside, so to speak, to 'show us the innumerable company of Gentiles who go through the great tribulation, and come into the blessing of the kingdom on earth, the Lamb opens the seventh seal of the roll of the mysteries and judgments of God. Before we get the further revelation of God under this seal, which is one of severe and terrible judgment, there was silence in heaven about the space bf half an hour. It is an ominous pause in the dealings of God, a prelude to the awful storm which follows. We are all more or less familiar with the lull before the bursting of a thunder-storm. All nature, so to speak, seems to hold its breath. There is oft a remarkable stillness in the air. Silence pervades the scene, and for a short while everything seems to be held in suspense. Suddenly the wind begins to stir, the heavens gather blackness, the clouds threaten, the lightning flashes, the thunder rolls, the rain descends in torrents, and all the elements seem to be engaged in great conflict. So will it be at that awful moment. Solemn indeed is this pause of God, ere the further awful judgments from His throne fall upon a prescribed portion of a guilty world.
“And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets," (Ver. 2.) Seven is a characteristic number of this wonderful prophecy. It denotes spiritual completeness, whether in good or evil. Seven angels are seen standing before God, waiting silently in His holy presence, ready to carry out His behests.
Seven trumpets are given unto them. Trumpets are used to sound, and the sound is loud and far-reaching. They arrest the attention, and mostly awaken inquiry from all who hear. The breaking of seals is more a silent action, and the masses will probably account for many of the providential judgments under the seals, as they account for catastrophes and accidents, etc., now. But that which happens under the seven trumpets, which seems to be detail of the seventh seal, is far more severe. They announce loudly and directly the intervention of God in judgment. In verse 2 the trumpets are given to the seven angels, but before they prepare themselves to sound, a remarkable word concerning the action of another angel is introduced.
“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. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." (Verses 3, 4.)
From the general character of this passage, and from the action of the angel, we judge that it is Christ in angelic garb. Others have spoken of Him as the angel-priest. He has a golden censer.
Everything is in keeping with absolute righteousness. 'Much incense is given to Him. There are saints on earth at this moment, as we have already seen, and they are characterized by prayers. The incense is offered with the prayers-the prayers of all saints who will be here below during the trumpet judgments. He offers them on the golden altar. We must bear in mind that the golden altar was not h the outside court, but in the tabernacle, as also in the temple, though not in the holiest of all. (Ex. 30) As High Priest, Christ will offer the incense and the prayers together before God. The golden altar here is before the throne. How precious for the Christian to be thus reminded that all the sweet incense of what Christ is to God (His deep perfections) ascends to Him and gives efficacy to, our prayers at the present moment. "The smoke of the incense," i.e., the sweet perfume of Christ ascends before God out of the angel's hand. How deeply precious to Him!
"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." The prayers of the suffering saints are in communion with God's thoughts of judgment, which further confirms that it is no question of Christians here, who pray for their enemies. These prayers with the incense are acceptable to, God. It is the same character of things in this way which we get in the Old Testament. The angel, Christ, as seen, offers them on, the golden altar, and then fills the same censer from the fire. It is part of God's judgment of men for their wickedness. All judgment is committed unto the Son. It is the angel-priest-Christ, as we believe-who executes it in this passage. The angels are associated with Him in each announcement. Immediately the fire falls, the symbols of judgment are mentioned. The half-hour's silence is over, the storm, referring to our figure, bursts forth.
“And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound." All the seven prepare themselves together, but they sound their trumpets in succession. Although as yet we have no dates referred to, it is clear that the judgments under the trumpets embrace the period of the last half-week (or three and a half years) of Daniel's prophecy, for under the seventh trumpet, voices announce the establishment of the kingdom, which is at the close of that period. We would further remark, that in the earthquake mentioned among the symbols of judgment in verse 5, there is, we think, certain analogy with that of chapter 6:12, to which we have already alluded.
“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."(Ver. 7.) The expression" the third part" is employed some ten times or so in the first four trumpets, and clearly denotes a prescribed limit to these terrible judgments. They are not universal, but the third part, we judge, refers to the Roman earth. Hail and fire, mingled with blood, would set forth apparently a downpour of destructive judgment, consuming in its effects, accompanied with awful bloodshed, upon the earth. The third part of the earth was burnt up. We think that the earth also must be applied figuratively in this passage (viz., the prophetic earth) as setting forth the sphere of (at the moment) fixed and stable government; a third part of it comes under this consuming judgment of God. Likewise the third part of the trees, which would again set forth persons of prominence. And all green grass, that is, all that has hitherto flourished and prospered within this sphere is destroyed.
“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; 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." (Verses 8, 9.) A great mountain is a figure of some great constituted authority. Men would call it a great power. Burning with fire shows that this power is subject to divine judgment. It is cast down from its lofty eminence into the sea, i.e., into the midst of masses of mankind found in a restless, unsettled and revolutionary condition. The effect of it is sanguinary warfare, and a third part lose their lives. "The third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died." We judge that this refers to those who, in the midst of the social chaos and revolution which characterize the mass, have hitherto maintained a religious profession, having a name to live in the midst of a general dead state. But under this trumpet the pressure becomes so great that a third part of these also die morally, being carried away in the terrible vortex. "And the third part of the ships were destroyed." This apparently sets forth the traffic and commerce on the sea of those who are within the sphere affected. The third part of this means of wealth is destroyed.
“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; 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." (Verses 10, 11.) A great star denotes some exalted personage set in a high position to be a source of light and blessing for all who come beneath his influence. But failing to answer to his privilege, he becomes the subject of the judgment of God. He falls, burning as it were a lamp (or burning as a torch). A third part of the rivers and the fountains of waters are polluted. Rivers fertilize the countries through which they flow and produce fruitfulness, and fountains of waters are the sources and springs of the same. Through the fall of this star, the great currents and even the sources of thought among men, which should produce a healthy and fruitful moral influence, are affected within a third part of the sphere in view. The name of the star is Wormwood, bitter. And the third part of the waters affected by this influence becomes bitter. And many men die from imbibing them. We take it to signify moral death.
“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." (Ver. 12.) The sun, looked at figuratively, would denote supreme ruling power in relation to the earth, the moon reflected and derivative power, and the stars lesser lights. They probably may be found in the chief ruling power within the prescribed sphere; the parliamentary or other forms of government which reflect that power, deriving authority therefrom; and other' individuals occupying important posts in the rule of the world. A third part is darkened morally by the judicial dealing of God, so that there is lack of light both for a third part of the day and of the night.
“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!" (Ver. 13.) The word translated “an angel" in this passage should read" an eagle. "It is in perfect keeping with that which follows, for the eagle says with a loud voice," Woe, woe, woe." It is a widespread thought amongst men that the flying over of an eagle is a harbinger of woe—or of some sinister event. Hence it is comparatively easy to seize the import of a flying eagle here. It is a prelude to the sounding of the last three trumpets, the judgments under which are still more severe, and are not limited to the third part as under the first four. The eagle says with a loud voice, "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth." This is the same class that we have already spoken of in chapter 3:10, inhabiters or dwellers upon the earth, an apostate company whose interests are all centered in the earth. The judgments under the fifth and sixth trumpets prefaced with these terrible woes will fall upon them. They take place also, we judge, within the sphere of the prophetic earth, where the Christian profession had been paramount.
The first brings before us moral thoughts in relation to delusions having their center in Palestine; the second to delusions connected with the armies of the east. The third is the coming of Christ to judge and reign.