And when he opened the seventh seal, there followed a silence in heaven about the space of halt an hour. And I saw the seven angels that stand before God; and there were given unto them seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should add it unto the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. And the angel taketh the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it upon the earth: and there followed thunders, and voices, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels that had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. And the first sounded, and there followed hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all the green grass was burnt up. 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 there died the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, even they that had life; and the third part of the ship was destroyed. And the third angel sounded, and there fell from heaven a great star, burning as a torch, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the 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. 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: that the third part of them should be darkened, and the day should not shine for the third part of it, and the night in like manner. And I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven, saying with a great voice, Woe, woe, woe, for them that dwell on the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are yet to sound.
Read More Than Conquerors, pp. 139–145
I consider the following points to be the keys to the interpretation of chapters 8 and 9:
1. Just as lampstands with their lighted lamps produce seals, so seals bring about trumpets; that is, just as witness-bearing results in persecution whereby God’s servants are certified, so persecution, in turn, results (by God’s providence) in punishments for the persecutors. (Note: the seventh seal produces the trumpets.)
2. These punishments are universal in their scope: the Lord afflicts those wicked persecutors on land (first trumpet, Rev. 8:7), sea (second trumpet, verses 8 and 9), rivers and fountains (third trumpet, verses 10 and 11), and even by means of the heavenly bodies (fourth trumpet, verse 12). And so also for the woes mentioned in chapter 9. Moreover, this happens throughout the entire dispensation.
3. The first four trumpets harm the wicked in his physical being; the last three bring about spiritual anguish: hell itself is let loose. Therefore, the last three are more terrible than the first four, as is also indicated by the voice of the eagle (Rev. 8:13).
4. The fact that trumpets concern and warn especially the wicked and are thus contrasted with seals which certify the righteous is clearly indicated by comparing Revelation 6:9 (for the seals) with 9:4 (for the trumpets).
5. The trumpets do not symbolize single and separate events in history. They refer rather to woes that take place any day of the year in any part of the globe. The description-for example, “a great mountain burning with fire cast into the sea”—is simply a very vivid picture, one might almost say a cartoon; better still: motion-picture, representing all warning woes on the sea throughout the dispensation.
If you let go of this important fact your attempt to explain these trumpets will be hopeless. If each trumpet indicates just one definite event that is to happen on one definite date in history and at one definite place, who will ever be able to state with any degree of certainty to which event it refers?
6. The series of woes indicated by these trumpets have their origin in heaven. Note that hail and fire are cast upon the earth, that the great star falls from heaven, etc. What a comfort to know that God takes note of the persecutions which his children have to endure, and punishes the persecutors!
7. The secondary cause of these trumpets is the prayer of the Church. Trumpets are God’s answers to the prayers of God’s persecuted servants. What a comfort to know that in a sense “the prayers of all the saints” (read verses 3–5) rule the world!
8. Trumpets warn. They indicate God’s warning judgments. They must not be confused with bowls which are poured out, and indicate God’s final wrath (chapters 15 and 16).
1. How do you explain “the silence in heaven about the space of half an hour”? Read verse 1. Is there any comfort in this?
2. Why do the prayers of the saints have to be incensed (verse 3)? What comfort is there in this?
3. Why do you so often read about “the third part”?
4. Is God sincere when he warns the reprobate?
5. Why was the name of the star called “Wormwood” (verse 11)?
6. What do these warning woes tell us about God’s nature?
7. Do these warnings contain any pedagogical lesson to be applied in the training of children?