The Seventh Seal, 8:1-9:21

8:1 Now when the Lamb 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.

8:2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 8:3 Another angel holding a golden censer came and was stationed at the altar. A large amount of incense was given to him to offer up, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar that is before the throne. 8:4 The smoke coming from the incense, along with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. 8:5 Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it on the earth, and there were crashes of thunder, roaring, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

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)

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…’

The angel’s hand – But this is not to say that angels are mediators of the prayers, or make the prayers acceptable to God.

8:6 Now the seven angels holding the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.
8:7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there was hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was thrown at the earth so that 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)

8:8 Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain of burning fire was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, 8:9 and a third of the creatures living in the sea died, and a third of the ships were completely destroyed.

A third of the sea turned into blood – Reminiscent of the first Egyptian plague, Ex 7:20-21.

8:10 Then the third angel blew his trumpet, and a huge star burning like a torch fell from the sky; it landed on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 8:11 (Now the name of the star is Wormwood.) So a third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from these waters because they were poisoned.

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.

8:12 Then the fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. And there was no light for a third of the day and for a third of the night likewise. 8:13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying directly overhead, proclaiming with a loud voice, “Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth because of the remaining sounds of the trumpets of the three angels who are about to blow them!”

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)

“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)