Revelation 8:1-13

THE SEVENTH SEAL

Revelation 8:1-13

In this lesson we discover the contents of the first four trumpet judgments.

 

OUTLINE

Some people read about the events of the Tribulation and wonder how God could allow, much less cause, such terrible things to happen to people. If we are offended by the terrible things to come upon the earth, think how much man's sin is an offense to a holy God.

I. The Silent Pause

II. The Silent Preparation

III. The Saints' Prayers

IV: The Sinners' Punishment

   A. The First Trumpet: a Third of the Trees and All the Grass

   B. The Second Trumpet: a Third of the Sea Creatures and a Third of the Ships

   C. The Third Trumpet: a Third of the Fresh Water Supply Poisoned

   D. The Fourth Trumpet: a Third of the Sun, Moon, and Stars Darkened

 

OVERVIEW

   Before we begin our study in the eighth chapter of Revelation, let's take stock of what we know: The Church of Jesus Christ is no longer on the earth, having been raptured prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. Most of the Jews and Gentiles who come to faith in Christ during the Great Tribulation are being martyred for their faith and are making their way to heaven as well. On earth, the seals are breaking open, and the judgments released

by each are taking their toll on the earth.

   There was a parenthesis in chapter 7 between the sixth seal (6:12-17) and the seventh seal which we will begin considering in this lesson (8:1). Plagues, wars, scarcity of food, natural disasters, and persecution have filled the earth and left it as a desolate place. But the end is not in sight; more judgments will come as the seventh seal is opened.

   When the seventh seal is opened, seven trumpet judgments are released. And when we get to the seventh trumpet judgment we will find it sounding forth seven bowls of judgment which will be poured out. In other words, the seventh seal has within it the rest of the book of Revelation and the plan of God for planet earth. As

we get into the seven trumpet judgments, we find Satan's presence in the man of sin, the Antichrist becoming increasingly more manifest.

   In this lesson, we will study I the first four of the seven trumpet judgments with which Revelation 8 is concerned.

 

THE SILENT PAUSE

That which is about to be unveiled is so serious that it is preceded by a period of silence in heaven. Prior to of praise going on in heaven angels, elders, saints, living creatures singing and shouting praise to God. But all of that noise suddenly ceases, and there is absolute quiet in the heavenly places. This is a foreshadowing of the solemn revelation that is about to be made. A half-hour seems like a short time unless you're waiting

for a life-or-death announcement to be made. Then it seems like time

has come to a stop.

THE SILENT PREPARATION

Seven angels were given seven trumpets to announce the coming judgments upon the earth (verse 2). Trumpets were used in various ways in Scripture such as calling people to worship (Numbers 10; 1 Chronicles 16). The trumpet was also sounded to prepare people for war (Numbers 10; Judges 3; Nehemiah 4). Those to whom the

trumpet blasts were directed needed to know the different sounds of the trumpet and what each meant in order to know how to respond.

THE SAINTS' PRAYERS

. A single angel, in a priestly mode, steps forward with a golden censer in his hand (verse 3). Some have suggested this might be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself since He comes forward to offer the prayers of the saints, along with the incense, upon the altar before the throne. I believe these are the prayers offered by the saints in

Revelation 6:9-10, those imprecatory prayers offered by the saints who were anxious for God to take vengeance upon the earth. They prayers for God to take action upon the unrighteous ones upon the earth. The ones offering them are martyrs who were killed for their allegiance to Jesus.

   It would appear that the offering of these prayers at the very time the trumpet judgments begin would make those judgments an answer to the martyrs' prayers. The angel filled the censer with fire from the altar and threw it upon the earth, from which "noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake" came (8:5). The fire

represented the judgment of God upon sin on the earth. The prayers of the saints are about to become the punishment of the sinners in verses 7-13.

THE SINNERS' PUNISHMENT

   In the final verses of this chapter we have the sounding of the first four trumpets with the last three trumpets coming in chapter 9.

   The trumpet judgments sound just before the Second Coming of Christ. Revelation 11:15 indicates that with the sounding of the seventh trumpet comes the announcement that "the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ." So the seven trumpet judgments introduce us to the section of Revelation which occurs just before Christ returns to earth at His Second Coming to establish His kingdom.

The First Trumpet: a Third of the Trees and All the Grass

Many commentators vacillate back and forth between literal and symbolic interpretations of Revelation. The material in this first trumpet judgment is a good place to note this tendency since it involves dramatic images.

   For instance, Walter Scott, one of the great commentators on Revelation with whom I agree most of the time, sees the content of the first trumpet symbolically. He takes the "trees" and "grass" as symbols. He views the "third of the trees" as the leaders of a confederation of nations, and the "grass" as representing people in general. While his conclusions may not be wrong, I cannot be sure how he arrives at them on the basis of "trees" and "grass." That is, when we approach concrete terms in the book of Revelation, how do we know to interpret them symbolically instead of literally – especially since they are no more farfetched than the plagues upon Egypt described in Exodus which we interpret literally?

   My conclusion is that we must interpret the effects of these judgments literally unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise-and the sheer awfulness or unusual nature of the judgments is not such a reason. While hail and fire mingled with blood is a terrifying-sounding reality to consider coming upon the earth, we have already learned that the Great Tribulation is going to be exactly that: a terrifying reality! Ecological devastation upon the earth, and the resulting calamitous impact upon the residents of the earth, will be all too real during this period. It is, after all, a period of judgment.

The Second Trumpet: a Third of the Sea Creatures and a Third of the Ships

   While we have no record of "something like a great mountain burning with fire" (verse 8) being thrown into the sea in history, that doesn't mean it won't or can't happen in the future. Indeed, John here uses figurative language when he says "something like." Perhaps he couldn't tell exactly what it was that fell into the sea, but it was "something like" a burning mountain. Many things will happen during the Great Tribulation which have never happened before in the history of the world. Therefore, we should not be surprised at our own shock at some of the things we are reading about. The human tendency is to say, "If it hasn't happened in 5,OOO-plusyears of recorded human history, it can't ever happen." That is not true; many surprises are in store for any who think that way. Three-fourths of the earth's surface is comprised of oceans, so if a third of that area is to blood (.75 x .33 = 25% of the world's oceans), this second trumpet represents extensive judgment upon the earth. Think of the pollution and the death of fish and sea creatures and the resulting loss of food for the human race. The health of the oceans has a dramatic trickle-down effect on the health of our whole planet.

   As of January 2016, there were 51,400 oceangoing merchant ships registered. Imagine the shock waves that will hit the shipping industry when 12,850of these valuable ships are suddenly destroyed with all of their cargo. The loss of life and the economic impact, in addition to further pollution, since many of those ships will be

transporting oil and other chemicals. That's what is going to happen when the second trumpet is blown.

The Third Trumpet: a Third of the Fresh Water Supply Poisoned

The judgment of the third trumpet affects fresh water supplies (verses 10-11). The net effect of this judgment is that fresh water is made bitter and undrinkable. Many will die from a lack of fresh water. It has been said human beings can go without food for 21 days, but only 3 days without water. Therefore, many will die as a

result of their water supply becoming poisoned. Wormwood grew in Bible lands and had an extremely strong and bitter taste. The book of Jeremiah is filled with references to wormwood to illustrate the bitter time of suffering the residents of Jerusalem experienced in the Babylonian siege of the city.

   John clearly says in this case that the cause is a star, or meteor, falling from heaven. In some way it impacts a third of the fresh water rivers and springs of earth, turning their waters bitter and unfit for drinking. History records a great volcano eruption on March 21, 1823, on the Aleutian Islands, which caused all the water in that area to become bitter and unfit for use. Something similar is going to happen again. Whatever the chemical nature of the contamination, it will be sufficient to cause "many men [to die] from the water" (8:11).

   The National Geographic Society lists about 100 principle rivers in the world ranging in length from the Amazon River, which is 4,000 miles long, to the Rio de la Plata, which is 150 miles long. The U.S. Geological Survey reports 30 large rivers in the United States, beginning with the mighty Mississippi, which is 3,710 miles long. One third of these primary rivers and their sources (as well as one-third of all rivers and springs) will become so bitterly polluted that drinking their water will result in death. It is hard to imagine the resulting chaos on this earth when one-third of the world population has no water to drink –or to use in all the other ways in which fresh water is required.

The Fourth Trumpet: A third of the Sun, Moon, and Stars Darkened

   The fourth judgment is going to affect the sun, the moon, the stars, and the uniformity of day and night (verse 12). These heavenly bodies will be affected in such a way that a third of them will have their normal functions, and apparently even their orbits, changed. It appears that we will have only 16 hours of day and night instead of 24. Jesus Himself predicted there would be signs in the sun, moon, and stars (Luke 21:25).

   John saw an eagle ("angel" in verse 13 of the NKJV should read "eagle") flying through the heavens warning the inhabitants of earth about the remaining three trumpets yet to sound. Trumpets five, six, and seven will bring a whole new level of divine displeasure and resulting disaster to the earth. We will see in ensuing lessons

a "woe" of locusts and the Euphrates horsemen in chapter 9, the plagues released by God's two witnesses in chapter 11, and the handing over of the earth to the worship of the Beast in chapter 13. Gradually, the earth is being handed over to Satan for the destruction which he will wreak through his agent the Beast.

   As a conclusion to this lesson, it is worth taking a moment to consider just what it will be like to be on earth when the events we've just read about take place. You lose friends and loved ones in large numbers. You try to contact other loved ones but all the communication systems have been damaged. The news media, what you are able to gain access to, is filled with reports of calamity and destruction and death. And then you begin to hear of a leader who is rising and who claims to be able to marshal the world's resources to restore order and health

and resources for living. Every person in the world, except those with spiritual discernment will be willing to follow his leadership. But his goal will be world domination and worship of himself, not what is best for the world.

   The seal judgments see the world ruined by man, the trumpet judgments see the world ruled by Satan, and at the end of the bowl judgments we will see the world reclaimed by the Lord. If you want to see the Tribulation unfold, I highly recommend you do so from the perspective of heaven, not earth.