Revelation: The Seventh Seal and the Seven Trumpets

June 12, 2011

(Rev 8:1-6) When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. 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. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 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. Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.

With the opening of the seventh seal, a remarkable silence enveloped heaven, filling the air with anticipation and wonder about what would happen next. Then seven angels with seven trumpets were revealed. As the first four angels sounded their trumpets in sequence, four waves of desolation swept over the earth. Hail and fire and blood. A burning mountain thrown into the sea. A great star falling into the rivers and springs of water. The sun, moon, and stars being struck. And an eagle warning of three woes coming from the remaining three trumpets.

A star fell, opened the Abyss, and released a plague of terrible locusts with stings like scorpions. They tortured the unbelievers for five months.

An invading army attacked, mounted on terrifying horses breathing out deadly fire, smoke, and sulphur.

The invaders destroyed a third of the earth, a third of the trees, and all of the green grass. A third of the sea turned to blood. A third of the creatures in the sea were killed, and a third of the ships were destroyed. A third of the rivers and springs turned bitter and killed many people. A third of the day was without light, and a third of the night. A third of mankind was killed.

As before, these images of devastation are symbolic of severe discipline and warnings of the full wrath of God against the beast, the Roman Empire. There would be a series of disasters over a period of time, each round further weakening the nation. Up to this point, the devastation would be only partial (one third), to give the survivors an opportunity for repentance. Yet Rome would refuse to repent.

Rev 10:5-7 Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”

The seventh trumpet would signal the complete destruction of the unrepentant enemy. Before the blowing of the seventh and final trumpet, the angel gives John a small scroll to eat and commands him to prophesy. He is commanded to measure the temple and to count the worshippers, but to exclude the outer court. Again God was designating who would be protected from the onslaught that would follow. Those inside the temple, the people of God, would be protected — both from the desolation sent by God, and from the attacks that would come from the enemy. But those outside the temple would face desolation under the wrath of God.

Next John describes two witnesses who would continue to prophesy during the 42 month (1260 day) period when the outer court would be trampled by the Gentiles. The witnesses represent those who continued to prophesy boldly during the period when the church was being persecuted by the Roman Empire. They would torment the inhabitants of the earth with their warnings and prophecies. The two witnesses would complete their testimony, and would join the ranks of the martyrs. They would ascend to heaven in the sight of those who killed them. A severe earthquake would then bring the inhabitants of the earth out of their brief celebration just as the third woe was about to be revealed. The enemies of the church would come to realize that they had failed to destroy the church, and that instead it was themselves who would be destroyed.

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