Revelation 8 Commentary

Seventh seal (8:1-5)

As the ungodly suffered the increasingly heavy judgments of the first six seals, they turned against the Christians with greater persecution. This had caused believers to ask God how long it would be before he dealt with those who were killing them (see 6:9-10). God is now going to answer that prayer. He has postponed judgment as long as possible, but now the time has come. All heaven waits silently. But when the seventh seal is broken, it reveals judgments so terrible that a new set of visions will be needed to explain them. The new visions will be announced by the blowing of trumpets (8:1-2).

Before seeing the new visions, John sees in picture form how the prayers of the persecuted Christians have brought about these judgments. He sees the prayers held by an angel in a golden container, then mixed with incense and burnt on the golden altar. As the smoke of the burning incense rises, it pictures the prayers going up to God (3-4). The angel then takes fire from the altar, puts it in the incense container, and throws the container to the earth. As soon as it hits the earth, terrible judgments break out. The whole vision is a dramatic way of showing how the prayers of God’s people play an important part in his dealings with the ungodly world (5; cf. Matt 24:22).


First four trumpets (8:6-13)

In the visions revealed by the breaking of the seals, the judgments arose largely from human sin. But in the judgments announced by the blowing of the trumpets, the judgments seem to come direct from God without the use of a human agency. The trumpet visions reveal another way of looking at God’s judgment, but like the seal visions they build towards a climax.

The first trumpet announces widespread devastation on the land (6-7); the second, on the sea (8-9); the third, on the waters of the land (10-11); and the fourth, on the moon and stars (12). The destruction of the symbolic ‘one third’ is slightly more extensive than the ‘one quarter’ in the seal judgments (cf. 6:8), but is not a total judgment. It is a warning of what will happen if people do not repent. The three woes (GNB: horrors) announced by an eagle correspond to the three remaining trumpet judgments (13; cf.

9:1,12-13; 11:14-15).

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