The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer, 1-5
Rev 8:1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Seals 1-6 have dealt with the events of history. The fact that there is a seventh seal indicates that there is a life beyond; but the silence tells us that the revelation of the life to come is not quite yet.
In Beasley-Murray’s view, heaven is silent in order to allow the prayers of the saints (vv3-4) to be heard.
Rev 8:2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
Here begins, as Wilcock styles it, Scene 3, with the sounding of seven trumpets. It would seem that the seven trumpets are the seventh seal.
Trumpets have many associations in the OT:-
1. the manifestation of God at Sinai, Ex 19:16-19
2. the accession of a king to his rule, 1 King 1:39-40
3. the celebration of God’s kingship, Ps 47:5-9
4. declaration of war, Jud 3:26-28; 7:19-20; Ne 4:18
5. the announcement of the day of the Lord, Joe 2:1; Zep 1:16
6. the announcement of festivals, Num 10:10
Some NT passages represent the triumphant return of Christ as heralded with trumpets, Mt 24:31; 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16.
Perhaps it is particularly the ‘day of the Lord’ associations that John has in mind, for the dominant note is one of warning to the world.
‘The vision of chs. 4; 5 remains an anchor point for this new cycle of visions. Like the seal judgments of 6:1-8:1, these judgments are executed according to God’s plan and in accord with his orders. The prayers of the saints play a notable part in originating the judgments.’ (Rev 8:3,4) (New Geneva)
Rev 8:3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.
Censer – A pan used to hold live charcoal for the burning of incense.
Incense…with the prayers of all the saints – Or, ‘incense…consisting of the prayers…’
Rev 8:4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
The angel’s hand – But this is not to say that angels are mediators of the prayers, or make the prayers acceptable to God.
Rev 8:5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
The Trumpets, 6-13
Rev 8:6 Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
Rev 8:7 The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
Hail and fire mixed with blood – This is the imagery of the seventh Egyptian plague, Ex 9:13-25.
‘The first four trumpet plagues strike the four major regions of creation: land, sea, fresh water, and sky. The first four bowls affect the same four regions. (Rev 16:1-9) Within the period of the early church, these visions were fulfilled both through natural calamities and through analogous spiritual calamities afflicting the souls of the wicked. In such apocalyptic imagery, the one type of calamity can represent the other. The general principles can be applied more broadly. Both human beings and the natural world undergo stress until the time of final renewal. (Rom 8:18-25) Final destruction of the natural universe, as well as the judgment of human beings, accompanies the Second Coming.’ (2 Pet 3:10,12) (New Geneva)
Rev 8:8 The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood,
A third of the sea turned into blood – Reminiscent of the first Egyptian plague, Ex 7:20-21.
Rev 8:9 a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Rev 8:10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water-
Rev 8:11 the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
Wormwood – This plant has a strong, bitter taste. It symbolises calamity and sorrow, Ps 5:3-4; Jer 9:15; Lam 3:19.
A third of the waters turned bitter – The reverse of the miracle at Marah, Ex 15:25.
Rev 8:12 The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.
A third of the sun was struck – Reminiscent of the ninth Egyptian plague, Ex 10:21-23.
‘References to the Egyptian plagues suggest that in Revelation we have the final exodus of God’s people from the bondage of a world controlled by hostile powers.’ (NIV Study Bible)
Rev 8:13 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in mid-air call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”
“Woe! Woe! Woe!” – ‘The three last trumpets are grouped together as three woes (Rev 9:12; 11:14) These plagues explicitly differentiate between the righteous and the wicked, as did the later Egyptian plagues.’ (New Geneva)