After the opening of the sixth seal, John saw the sealing of the 144,000 and the presence of the great multitude before the throne and the Lamb. This interlude has ended, and the seventh seal is to be opened. Within the seventh seal are the seven trumpets of judgment. As you study and interpret John’s vision of the calamities, focus on the overall progression of events, the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose, as well as the intended message for us without necessarily figuring out what each of the elements symbolizes.
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1. Trumpet (8:2): “In OT times the trumpet served to announce important events and give signals in time of war.”
2. Altar (8:3): “The Altar of incense, called also the golden altar to distinguish it from the altar of burnt offering, which was called the brazen altar. Ex. 38:30… That in the tabernacle was made of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold. In shape it was square, being a cubit in length and breadth and two cubits in height. Like the altar of burnt offering it had horns at the four corners, which were of one piece with the rest of the altar. This altar stood in the holy place.” [ref]
3. Censer (8:3): “A fire pan used to hold live charcoal for the burning of incense (cf. Ex 27:3; 1Kgs 7:50).” [ref] “A small portable vessel of metal fitted to receive burning coals from the altar, and on which the incense for burning was sprinkled.” [ref]
4. Wormwood (8:11): “This plant is distinguished for its bitter juice (Lam 3:15)…The Bible refers for wormwood—along with gall and hemlock—to signify bitterness….” [ref]
5. Bottomless pit/Abyss (9:1): “Conceived of as the subterranean abode of demonic hordes (see 20:1; Lk 8:31). The Greek word means “very deep” or “bottomless,” and is used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) to translate the Hebrew word for the primeval deep (see Gen 1:2; 7:11; Pr 8:28).” [ref]
6. Locusts (9:3): “Locust plagues are one of the severest plagues of mankind. The imagery of locusts, appearing like armies, advancing like a cloud, darkening the heavens, and sounding like the rattle of chariots, goes back to Joel’s vision of the locust army that came on Israel as a judgment from God (Joel 1:4; 2:4- 10).” [ref]
7. Scorpions (9:3): “Large spider-like organisms that injure or kill by means of a poisonous barb in the tail.” [ref]
8. Abaddon/Apollyon (9:11): “The Hebrew term ’abaddon means ‘destruction’ or ‘ruin’ (Job 26:6 mg.; Prov 27:20 mg.), and more often ‘the place of ruin’ in Sheol (Job 26:6m g.; Prov 15:11 mg.; 27:20 mg.), or ‘death’ (Job 28:22 mg.), or ‘the grave’ (Ps 88:11 mg.). In late Jewish apocalyptic texts and Qumran literature, it refers to the personification of death (IQH 3.16, 19, 32; IQ ap Gen 12:17 [TDOT, 1:23]). The Greek term apollyon means ‘exterminator’ or ‘destroyer’….” [ref]
9. Euphrates (9:14): “The longest river in western Asia (about 1,700 miles). It marked the boundary between Israel and her historic enemies (Assyria and Babylon) to the east (cf. Isa 8:5-8).” [ref]
- Preparation for the Sounding of the Seven Trumpets (8:1-6)
- Sounding of the First Six Trumpets (8:7-9:21)
What key words suggest that John is attempting to describe things he has not seen before?Hide Answer
“Like” (8:10; 9:2,3,5,7,8,9,10,17,19); “something like” (8:8; 9:7).
Which events in the trumpet judgments resemble the plagues in Exodus ch. 7-10?Hide Answer
The first trumpet (Ex 9:23-26); the second trumpet (Ex 7:20-21); the fourth trumpet (Ex 10:21-23); the fifth trumpet (Ex 10:13-15).
Compare 8:1 with 7:9-12. Why do you think there was silence in heaven? (cf. Hab 2:20; Zeph 1:7; Zech 2:13)Hide Answer
Whereas the multitudes praised God with a loud voice in chapter 7, chapter 8 begins with a total silence in heaven. The period of silence gives an effect of awe, suspense, and solemnity, indicating the dreadful judgments that God is about to bring upon the world. The silence may also be for the purpose of offering the incense so that the prayers of the saints may be heard by God.
What were the functions of the censer and the altar in the OT?Hide Answer
The priest would take burning coals and incense from the altar, place them on the censer, and bring the censer before the Lord so that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat (Lev 16:12,13). The censer with the fire and incense from the altar also served as atonement (Num 16:46).
What could the offering of the incense in 3-4 represent?Hide Answer
The angel here performs the work of the High Priest, suggesting that the offering up of the incense represents the atoning work of Christ that gives us access to God (Heb 4:14-16). The incense is offered along with the prayers of the saints, symbolizing the intercessory role of Christ on behalf of the believers (Heb 7:25; Rom 8:27,34; 1Jn 2:1,2)
What does the angel’s action in verse 5 symbolize?Hide Answer
Fire is often connected with God’s wrath (Deut 4:24; 32:22; Isa 30:27,30; Heb 10:27). Noises, thunderings, lightnings, and earthquakes are manifestations of God’s awesome judgment (cf. 4:5; 11:19; and 16:18). God’s wrath, having reached its fullness, comes upon the earth with great force (“threw it to the earth”).
What does the offering of the incense have to do with the trumpet judgments?Hide Answer
At the opening of the fifth seal (6:9-11), the martyrs cried out to God to vindicate them and avenge their blood, but they were told to wait a little while longer. In chapter 8, it seems that the time has come for their prayers to be answered. Having offered the incense and the prayers of the saints, the angel filled the censer with fire and threw it to the earth. Then the trumpet judgments began. This sequence indicates that God is now responding to the prayer of the saints and vindicating them.
Where is the golden altar placed? What does this teach us about our prayers to God?Hide Answer
Before the throne. Since the smoke of the incense and the prayer of the saints ascend before God’s throne, it is impossible for God not to take notice. God is attentive to the prayer of the righteous (1Pet 3:12). Even though He does not answer our prayer immediately, every prayer we offer rises before God’s presence through the atoning work of Christ. Therefore, we should not be discouraged but be persistent in our prayers until God brings about justice (Lk 18:1-8)
What effect does 6 give to the scene?Hide Answer
The description here adds to the feeling of suspense. John not only saw the sounding of the trumpet, but the preparation leading up to that point.
Record below your observations on the events of the first four trumpets.Hide Answer
Read these references on the sounding of trumpets: Lev 25:8-12; Num 10:2,3,9; Josh 6:12-21; Isa 27:13; Ezek 33:1-5; Joel 2:1, 15-16; Amos 3:6; Zeph 1:16; Mt 24:31; 1Cor 14:8; 15:52; 1Thess 4:16. On what occasions were trumpets used?Hide Answer
Proclamation of Jubilee; calling the assembly and directing the movement of the camps; alarm during war or before the day of the Lord; the coming of the Lord; the final resurrection.
Using the above references, what do you think is the significance of the seven trumpets?Hide Answer
The events of the seven trumpets send alarm and warning to the world, declaring the coming of God’s terrible judgment and calling the people to repent.
Revelation records of three “woes” (8:13; 11:14). What do these woes refer to?Hide Answer
The three woes are the fifth, sixth, and seventh trumpets (8:13)
Record on chart H your observations on the events of the fifth and sixth trumpets.Hide Answer
5th Trumpet: Locusts
Their Permission: To him was given the key to the bottomless pit.
6th Trumpet: Horses & Horsemen
Their Permission: “Release the four angels…”
How are the events of the fifth and sixth trumpets more severe than those of the first four trumpets? Is there any indication in the text of such an increase in severity?Hide Answer
After the sounding of the forth trumpet, the flying angel (or eagle) cried out “woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” Such declaration shows the severity of the last three trumpets. The descriptions of the events under the fifth and sixth trumpets are also much more detailed. Furthermore, unlike the first four events, where the main target was nature, the target of the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments is human beings.
How is the judgment of the sixth trumpet more destructive than that of the fifth?Hide Answer
In the fifth trumpet, the locusts were not allowed to kill. But in the sixth trumpet, the four angels were released to kill a third of mankind. The means of destruction is also more extensive.
What means of punishment do the locusts and horses use?Hide Answer
The locusts have stings in their tails. The horses send three plagues— fire, smoke, and brimstone—with their mouths and also harm people with tails that are like serpents with heads.
What indication is there that the star in verse 1 is referring to a spiritual being rather than a physical object?Hide Answer
It uses the pronoun “he” when referring to the star. This might be the same as the angel of the bottomless pit in verse 11. Thus, this star should be symbolic of the devil (12:7-9; Lk 10:18).
From the authority that was given to the angel of the pit, what can we learn about the nature of evil in today’s world?Hide Answer
Evil is a result of the works of the devil. It is present by the permission of God because of the sin in the world. But the devil’s authority is limited and temporary. God will eventually destroy him and his works.
Are the locusts literally insects? Explain your answer.Hide Answer
The descriptions of these locusts in 7-10 seem to suggest that they were not insects. Their use of the tail as weapons of harm is also quite unlike the harm brought about by locusts.
Who are those who have the seal of God according to another passage in Revelation?Hide Answer
The servants of God, who have been sealed from harm (7:3).
What does 9:20-21 suggest as to God’s purpose for sending the calamities of the trumpets?Hide Answer
As has been mentioned in question 8b regarding the significance of trumpets, the events recorded here serve to warn the people and bring them to repentance. God did not simply destroy the sinners immediately. He sent calamities in increasing measure, hoping that the people might repent before the final destruction strikes.
How are we sometimes like these people?
What must we do in response to the prophecies recorded here?Hide Answer
Even though the calamities we see today may not have reached the scale of the trumpet judgments yet, we must awake from our slumber and heed the warning of the trumpets as we read the words of the prophecy (16:15; 22:7). We must leave all sins, including those mentioned in these verses: idolatry, murder, sorceries, sexual immorality, and theft.
What modern-day events or realities do the trumpet judgments bring to mind?