Revelation Chapter Eight Part I

Trumpets

Trumpets

(Rev 8:1) And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

This verse could easily be placed in chapter 7; it finishes the opening of the seals and verse two of this chapter begins the trumpets. The two, both seals and trumpets, are not to be taken chronologically simply because they follow in successive chapters. They are sequential but we are not told at what exact time each event occurs. Recapitulation is also used in the narration of the events. The seventh seal reveals the trumpets.

We find seven trumpets and about a half hour of silence in this chapter of Revelation. Similarly, we find seven trumpets and silence in the chapter six of the book of Joshua before the trumpets sounded and the people shouted and Jericho’s walls fell.

God told Joshua to have seven priests, each with a ram’s horn walk around the walls of Jericho in front of the Ark of the Covenant seven times, once a day for six days. All the men of war were to march before and after them in the following order: The armed men went before the priests, the priests with the trumpets walked behind them, the Ark of the Covenant was behind the priests followed by the rear guard.

On the seventh day, they were to walk around the walls seven times. During all these excursions around the walls of Jericho the people were to remain silent. The only sounds would be from the seven ram’s horns. On the final day, after the final circuit around the walls of Jericho, the priests were to sound one long blast of the ram’s horn and at the same instant all the people were to give a loud shout and the walls of Jericho fell. The sequence after the last trip around the walls was silence, a long blast of the ram’s horn, and a loud shout by the people, and Jericho was conquered.

There are parallels between the fall of Jericho and the trumpets of Revelation. Both deploy seven trumpets; after the seventh sounding of the trumpets the wall of Jericho fell. The six trumpets used on the six daily times the Israelites walked around Jericho set up to the final destruction of the city. The six trumpets spread woe and fear among the evil inhabitants of Jericho. Rahab had confidence in the covenant she made with the spies and she was comforted during this time. There was silence among the people of Israel during the sounding of the trumpets, but at the seventh, the people shouted.

The evil people inside were all killed (see Deut 20:16-17, below) because of the wrath of God but Rahab and her family were spared because she had faith that the Israelites would keep the covenant they made with her when she hid the spies and would spare her when the Jericho was destroyed. Rahab and her family were taken out of the city and given a place beside the camp of Israel.

The six trumpets of Revelation are trumpets of tribulation and woe upon the earth and the people. The first four are tribulation against the earth and the last three are woes against the wicked. the trumpets lead up to the seventh. When the seventh trumpet is sounded, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev 11:15).

That begins the destruction of the evil people in the world and ushers in the Return of Christ and rapture of the church. Then all the evil kingdoms of the world will be destroyed. The church, like Rahab, is spared from the wrath of God and the destruction of the nations. The silence precedes the trumpets in Revelation and in Joshua, it accompanies the trumpets.

Through the woes brought on by the six trumpets, Christians will be comforted. Not being a Dispensationalist, I do not concur with the pre-trib rapture. The Scriptures tell us that the church will be on earth during the tribulation. They also tell us that the church will be snatched away or raptured before the wrath of God begins against the evil people of the entire world (not just the evil people in Israel like Dispensationalism teaches). Jericho is a type of the end times, while the actual end times are the anti-type.

Why did God order the Israelites to destroy all the men, women, and children of the Canaanites? Here is why:

“But of the cities of these peoples which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the LORD your God has commanded you, lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God” (Deu 20:16-18).

The Canaanites worshipped false gods who demanded sinful things like child sacrifice, pagan fertility rites like temple prostitution, fornication, adultery, incest, ritual sacrifices to idols, self-mutilation, and other abominations. They taught their children these things.

For a review, let us review again what was written in Chapter 5 about the seals:

Jesus opened the seals and as each seal [on the book (scroll) of Rev 5:1-7] was opened the events of the end of the age unfolded. They were seals of revealing. The first four seals reveal the four horsemen: conquering (or victory), war, famine, and death. The fifth seal reveals those slain for their testimony. The sixth seal reveals upheaval on earth. The seventh seal reveals the trumpet and vial judgments. All of these things are contained in the scroll.

This sealed scroll is a testament or covenant or contract. The seals make it so. A covenant must be sealed in order for it to be valid. In earlier times, an actual seal was impressed on a latching material like wax. Later the seal was impressed into the paper. In many jurisdictions, the signature is now the only seal required for validity. Your signature is your seal. A bank check is a type of contract. Your signature is the seal that makes the check or contract, valid.

Seven seals make this scroll divine, complete, and perfect. Gaius the Roman Jusrist, tells us that, according to Roman law, a written will or testament required seven witnesses and seven seals on the document (Gaius, II.147). Some say that this scroll is the title deed to creation. That is an opinion with which I am inclined to agree.

The seventh, and last seal reveals tribulation and judgment. After the seal is opened, the seven trumpets of God are disclosed. And after the trumpets are sounded, the seven vials of God’s wrath are poured out. The tribulation is of the Devil and is against God’s people. The judgment and subsequent wrath is from God against an evil world. The tribulation of Satan occurs while the church is on earth; the wrath of God occurs after the church is raptured (Mat 24:29; Mar 13:24, Joh 16:33).

Why is there silence in heaven for half an hour? The partially refers to the cessation of all the praise and worship going on before the seventh seal was opened. We saw the type in the narrative of the destruction of Jericho above. There are other reasons for silence in the Scriptures.

Silence is often associated with the awesome presence of God in Hab 2:20, “But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (See also Zep 1:7; Zec 2:23). There is also silence with great and terrible judgment, “You may silence the enemy and the avenger” (Psa 8:2). We are to be silent and listen to the counsel of God, “Men listened to me and waited, And kept silence for my counsel” (Job 29:21). It is also associated with death and the grave. David said of silence, “let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave” (Psalm 31:17).

Silence is used to indicate defeat and destruction: “The burden of Moab. Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste and brought to silence; because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence;” (Isa 15:1). Amos speaks of silence in the time of the end: “Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time” (Amos 5:13). Amos also tells of silence during tribulation: “And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence” (Amos 8:3).

Silence signifies death, defeat and destruction. Each of these calamities occurs after the silence recorded in Heaven here in the Revelation as in Joshua. Silence signifies that the end is come and that is just what the Revelation is about. Silence anticipates a great and terrible event. That is exactly what the Tribulation is, a great and terrible event.

There is a reference to silence in the apocrypha at the beginning of the new age: “After those years my son the Messiah shall die, and all who draw human breath. Then the world shall be turned back to primeval silence for seven days, as it was at the first beginnings, so that no one shall be left. After seven days the world that is not yet awake shall be roused, and that which is corruptible shall perish” (2Es 7:29-31 NRSV).

The presence of God is eminent and the trumpet is about to sound. Consider the court of a king. The courtiers and their ladies are all assembled and expecting the king. It is learned that the king is approaching and about to make his entrance into court. Suddenly there is a hush over all the assembly in anticipation of the king. Then the trumpet sounds and the king is announced. That is just about what is happening here. The trumpet is about to sound ushering in the coming wrath of God Almighty.

The silence recorded here is a microcosm of the entire Apocalypse (that is, the Revelation). The entire Apocalypse is about the end of the age, about death and destruction, and of course, about great salvation. These are all awesome events for us, and they evoke silence from us because of our lack of understanding of the things of God. Silence allows us to listen, learn and understand these things. We may have silence for any exalted purpose. What higher purpose is there than the culmination of the Kingdom of God? The seventh seal contains all of these events and that is why there was silence in Heaven before the seal was opened.

This half hour of silence in heaven is for the specific purpose of setting apart the pending tribulation and pouring out of God’s wrath. This begins to be meted out upon the evil people on earth as soon as the trumpets begin to sound. Half an hour is the English rendering of the Geek word, ημιωριον, hemiōrion literally means half an hour. This word is used nowhere else in the New Testament. It is a literal half hour. John gives un no further explanation than that.

(Rev 8:2) And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

We are not given any more information about those angels than what is written before us in this chapter. We can speculate who these seven angels are. To do so, we can refer to the Apocrypha and to extra-Biblical sources. This will give us a possible understanding of the mindset of first century Jews concerning this matter.

We will first review the Apocrypha: Tobit Chapter 12 verse 15 states, “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.

No doubt, John was familiar with this reference, for these things were extant during his lifetime. According to GotQuestions.org, “The Book of Tobit, also referred to as Tobias, believed to have been written early in the second century B.C., recounts the story of a man named Tobit and his family exiled to living in Nineveh shortly after the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.1

Five scrolls of the book of Tobit were found in Cave IV at Qumran; 4Q200, 4Q196, or 4QTob 196-200. They agree closely with the book of Tobit extant today.

The extra-Biblical Book of Enoch was extant and well known in the first century We know that because fragments of that book were found in Cave VII at Qumran [7QEnoch]. According to the Book of Enoch, the seven angels of this verse are the holy angels that “go in and out of that house” [where the throne of The Holy One, God is]2 are Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Micvhael, Saraqâêl, Gabriel and Remiel3. Perhaps John the Revelator and Apostle was referring to these writings when he wrote of the seven angels which stood before God. However, this is just conjecture that is not supported by Scripture: we are not told the names of those angels.

Those seven angels were each given a trumpet to sound. We are not told whether these were silver trumpets or Ram’s horns. The sound of a trumpet (or a bugle in modern armies) denotes the beginning of action (as in battle). Since the trumpets signify action it is more than likely that they are arranged in sequential, but not necessarily in chronological, order in the Bible. In other words, the first trumpet is blown, then the second, and so forth, but we have no way of knowing how much time passed between each sounding of the trumpets. God controls when the trumpets will sound and His messengers, or angels, sound them. Of course, the sounding of them precedes an action.

(Rev 8:3) 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.

To understand this verse, we must first understand the workings of the temple system. Once and only once a year, the high priest was to go into the Holy of Holies, the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Most Holy Place, that is, into the very Presence of God, and to make atonement for the sins of Israel. When the Tabernacle was first constructed, God told Moses to place the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place, where it remained until Messiah came. When the high priest went into the Most Holy Place, he took with him a censer, which is a container for live coals. The live coals in the censer came from the altar of incense.

The high priest would carry incense into the Most Holy Place along with the censer filled with coals, and then he would pour the incense over the coals in the censer causing copious amounts of incense smoke. The smoke from the incense would fill the place. The smoke represented the Shekinah Glory of God, which is the visible presence of the Glory of God in the Most Holy Place. It was also used to cover the Mercy Seat, where God would meet with the High Priest so that the priest would not see Him and die (Lev. 16:13).

The Israelites truly believed (as I do, for that is what the Bible says–Ex. 30:6) that the actual Presence of God was in the Most Holy Place, above the cover or Mercy Seat of the Ark.

Here we are told that the smoke from the incense is offered with the prayers of God’s people. In the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Altar of Incense was kept just outside the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. Incense was perpetually burned on the Altar of Incense. Each morning, the high priest would burn incense on the Altar. We read about Zacharias (father of John the Baptist) burning the incense and at the time of incense, the people would gather outside the Holy Place to pray (Luke 1:10). The Bible also indicates an instance where incense facilitated making atonement for sins (Num. 16:46-48).

The incense and the prayers of the saints were both offered on the altar before the Throne of God. Therefore, God would smell the sweet savor of the incense and simultaneously hear the prayers of His own people.

Note that the angel offered incense on the Golden Altar and not in the censer like the High Priest would do. That is because this altar is in Heaven, not in the Tabernacle or Temple. The censer is empty and will be filled in the next verse. The high priest would normally pour the incense into the censer full of coals, but here, the High Priest is not making the offering, an angel is.

(Rev 8:4) And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.

Here is a clearer translation from the Contemporary English Version4, “Then the smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up to God from the hand of the angel.” The KJV implies that the smoke inherently included the prayers of the saints, but the Greek implies that the prayers and the smoke were two different things going up before God together. The incense was placed on the fire of the Altar out of the angel’s hand and the smoke ascended from the altar. By extension, the smoke was out of the angel’s hand. I believe it is symbolic of the Holy Spirit going before the Father with the prayers.

Who are the saints? The Greek word for saints is αγιον, hagion, the plural of αγιος, hagios. Of persons, it means sacred, set apart by God to God, dedicated to God, etc. because we are saved by the blood of Christ. The saints are righteous because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to them. Christians are set apart for God and all are blameless before Him because of the blood of Christ.

The saints are Christians. All true Christians are saints or God’s people. Saints are not blameless, righteous, or set apart because of any good thing they did; they are only set apart because Christ died for their sins and they believe in Him. So, the prayers of God’s people have come up before Him with the smoke of the incense. In this verse, God has heard the prayers of his people and now He is ready to begin the tribulations prepared for the earth.

(Rev 8:5) 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.

This is the beginning of that tribulation Jesus told about in Mat 24:21, Mark 13:19, Luke 21:11, and John 16:33. Luke records the words of Jesus: “and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven” (Luk 21:11). That is exactly what we see here in the first four trumpets. The prayers of the saints were likely for protection and guidance through the tribulations ahead.

In the Temple system, the priest would take fire from the altar of incense that stood outside the Most Holy Place and place it in the censer to take with him into the Most Holy Place to burn the incense. Here we see the angel taking fire from the Golden Altar in Heaven casting it down to the earth bring catastrophe with it. He burned the incense on the Golden Altar and not in the censer like the priest would do. Again, the smoke of the incense went up before God with the prayers of the saints. This is the key.

The Bible says “For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29) This is a New Testament stating of an Old Testament principle. For example, “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” (Deu 4:24) And, “Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.” (Deu 9:3)

To understand what will happen in the future, we must first understand what happened in the past. The last verse, Deu 9:3, gives us the information we need. God was speaking of those enemies of His that lived in Canaan. He would drive them out before the Israelites, His chosen people. He is a consuming fire to His enemies, but He gives grace to His people. That is what happened in the past. So, when the angel pours the censer out upon the earth, he is pouring out God’s wrath as a consuming fire against God’s enemies, and that is what will happen in the future.

When Moses was on the Mountain and the people were at the foot of the Mountain, “there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.” The presence of God on Sinai frightened the people because of the cloud, the thunder, the lightning, and the sound of the trumpet. The sound of the trumpet was the Voice of God.

This passage in Revelation is a fulfillment of Isaiah 29:6, “Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.

Isaiah is talking about the mythical place called Ariel (Isa 29:1). Ariel means Lion of God. Ariel is most commonly associated with Jerusalem, but it has an allegorical quality to it. It is used of Jerusalem when Jerusalem is rebellious against God. It could also be used of the world when the world rebels against God.

Isaiah was writing about the time of the end. When the Babylonians came against Jerusalem, they besieged it. There was no thunder, noise, or earthquake. The Temple was burned, and the walls were broken down and most of the people were exported to Babylon. As violent as the burning of the Temple and the tearing down of the walls were, they did not equal the words of Isaiah. This exact circumstance also repeated itself when Titus Vespasian came against Jerusalem in AD 70.

Here we need to recall what is written in the Foreword of this commentary. What has been in the past has already occurred, perhaps multiple times, and will occur again in the future (Ecc 1:9-11).

Here in Revelation the LORD visits the earth with thunder, earthquake, noise (the word for voices could also be rendered noise), storm, tempest, and devouring or consuming fire.

Revelation Chapter 8 continues in Part II

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? He is going to return to the world soon. Are you ready? When He does if you do not know Him as your Savior, you will join all those who do not know Him in “Outer Darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 22:13-14).

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Mark Oaks, Updated June 3, 2021

  1. “What is the Book of Tobit?”, https://www.gotquestions.org/book-of-Tobit.html, paragraph 2, line 1.
  2. 1 Enoch71:8-9
  3. 1 Enoch 20:1-8
  4. Contemporary English Version © 1995 by American Bible Society.  Used by permission.
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