The Seven Trumpets

Revelation 8:1-13

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
April 2012

We have been studying the Tribulation in the Book of Revelation.  It is a future period of time which has not happened yet.  Revelation uses two different terms to describe this time period.  The first term that is used in the book to describe that time period is “The Great Day of His Wrath” (6:17).

That is a term that is used to show what God will do to wicked men for their rebellion against God.  It will be a time period in which God’s wrath will be unleashed on earth against wicked humanity.  It will be a time of hell on earth.

Many think the wrath begins with the Trumpets but the first time that we see that phrase is in connection with the seals.  God’s wrath was already being poured out with the seal judgments.  The second term that is used for this time period is “The Great Tribulation” (7:14).

Often we think of the Tribulation, we think of what God will do to bad guys during this time period and how He will judge them.  He will judge them but the term “The Great Tribulation” does NOT describe what God will do to the wicked.  It describes what the Antichrist will do to the righteous.

Revelation 8 is a continuation right where Revelation 6 left off. Why isn’t the seventh seal in chapter seven?  The two visions in Revelation 7 (the 144,000 and the Great Multitude) are not chronological.

They are parenthetical.  They are not the next thing that happens in the story.  In Revelation 5, Jesus took a book from the right hand of the Father and began to remove the seals from the book.  In chapter 6, he removed six of the seals.  When we get to chapter 7, He opens the seventh seal.

When he opens the seventh seal, what happens?  There is dead silence for a half an hour.  This is not proof that there will be no women in heaven (as some have said) but it is very strange.  Heaven is a very noisy place.

Earlier in the book we were told that “From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder” (4:5).  We saw “a mighty angel proclaiming in a LOUD voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’” (5:2).

John heard thousands upon thousands of angels, the living creatures and the elders “saying in a LOUD VOICE “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (5:11-12). The martyrs in heaven called out in a LOUD VOICE, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 

We saw an angel “called out in a LOUD VOICE to the four angels” saying “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” (7:2-3). The four living creatures were loud.

The twenty-four elders were loud.  The angels were loud.  The martyrs in heaven were loud but when this seventh seal is finally opened, there is complete silence in heaven.

The Seven Angels

After Jesus opens the seventh seal, seven angels blow seven trumpets and each trumpet brings more disaster on the earth.  The seven angels that blow these trumpets are not just any angels but “the seven angels who stand before God” (8:2).

This is a different group of angels.  The Bible teaches that there are distinct ranks of angels.  They are organized in a hierarchy.  Some angels are greater than others.  Some seem to have more rank and authority.

So far in Revelation, we have encountered regular angels and four living creatures around the throne (7:11).  Now we see another group of angels called “the presence angels.”  The definite article points to a well-known group of angels.

The Jews at this time believed that there were a group of seven high ranking archangels who stand before God.  It is a view found in pre-Christian Jewish apocalyptic literature.  In fact, I Enoch gives the names of these seven angels – Uriel, Raguel, Remiel, Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, Saraqael (20:1-8).  All Archangels have “God” on their name.  They all end with the “el” suffix (“God” in Hebrew).

This idea of seven archangels is also found in the Apocrypha.   Tobit 12:15 says, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ever ready to enter the presence of the glory of the Lord.‘”

The Eastern Orthodox Church believes in seven archangels.   Is this biblical?  I Enoch is not inspired.  It is not part of the Jewish Bible or the Christian Bible.  Tobit is not inspired.  That is a book in the Roman Catholic Bible.  The only one in the Bible who is specifically called an archangel is Michael (Jude 9) – Michael the Archangel.

However, Daniel 10:13 says that Michael is only “one of the chief princes” (implying that there are others).  The NLT reads, “Michael, one of the archangels”.

These archangels are musical.  Not only can angels sing, they know how to play some musical instruments, like a trumpet.  Both Eric and Aaron play the trumpet in their high school band.  Trumpet a picture of warfare.

They blow the trumpet as they head off into battle (I Corinthians 14:8; Numbers 10:9).  That seems very strange to us.  The US Army does not use a trumpet when it goes into battle but in Scripture trumpets are often associated with warfare and judgment.

This brings us to the second set of judgments in the Book of Revelation.  The first set of end-time judgments are the seals.  The second set of future judgments are the trumpet judgments.  Before we look at some of these trumpet judgments in detail, I want to raise one question that seems obvious to most of us.  Does the first seal and the first trumpet take place at the same time or do the trumpet judgments take place after the seal judgments?

Are the Tribulation Judgments Chronological?

It seems obvious to us but not to critical scholars.  Most critical scholars do not believe that the seals, the trumpets and the bowl judgments are chronological.  Most of them believe in what is called the recapitulation theory.

They believe that the seals, the trumpets and the bowl judgments happen at the same time and are simultaneous, rather than successive.  Are they correct?  No.  It is actually very easy to refute.  These judgments have to be chronological for three reasons:

1. The judgments differ in sequence.

All of you have to do is to compare the judgments to refute this theory.  In some cases there is a similarity.  There is blood or bloodshed in the second seal, the second trumpet and the second bowl judgment but, in most cases, there is nothing in common.

The first seal has to do with peaceful military conquest.  The first trumpet has to do with a natural catastrophe (hail, fire and blood falling to the earth), affecting the earth, the trees and the grass.  The first bowl is painful sores on the followers of the Antichrist.  The fourth seal is death.  Neither the fourth trumpet, nor the fourth bowl, kills anyone.

2. The judgments differ in severity.

The judgments get progressively worse.  The seals definitely got worse.  They start off with war and famine and end up so bad that people want to kill themselves.  The trumpets get worse.  The first four are bad but the last three are so bad they are called “woes” (the first woe, the second woe and the last woe).

The judgments get worse as you move from the seals to the trumpets to the bowl judgments.  When the four horsemen appear, one fourth of the earth is affected (6:8).  The first fraction in the book is a fourth.  The seals do not affect one fourth, they affect one third of the earth (8:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).  The bowl judgments do not affect a fourth or a third.  They affect everything (16:3).

These judgments have to be chronological.  The seven trumpets are not sounded until the seventh seal is opened.  They come out of the seventh seal and the seven bowls are not poured out until the seventh trumpet is blown.  The seven bowls come out of the seventh trumpet.  In fact, the bowls are specifically called “the last plagues” (15:1).

Characteristics of the Trumpet Judgments

1) The trumpet Judgments are divided into two parts, just like the seals.

If you remember, the first four seal judgments were separated from the last three.  The first four seals were introduced by four living creatures who said “come” and were followed by four horsemen.  The first four trumpets are also separated from the last three.  The first four trumpets are in Revelation 8.

The last three trumpets are called “woes” and are in Revelation 9.  The first four trumpets are judgments on nature (vegetation, salt water (seas), fresh water (rivers), the heavens and only people indirectly.  The last three trumpets are judgments on people directly.  Some will die from them (8:11).

2) The trumpet judgments resemble the Ten Plagues of Egypt.

If you know the story of the Exodus, you know that the Hebrews had been slaved in Egypt for hundreds of years.  Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob says to let his people go free”.  What was Pharaoh’s response?  He said, “No.  I don’t know this God and yours and I will not let them go”.  Every time he said “no”, God sent a different plague on Egypt.

There was the plague of water turning to blood, the plague of frogs, the plague of gnats, the plague of flies, the plague of boils, the plagues of thunder and hail, the plague of sick livestock, the plague of darkness and the death of the firstborn.

As we read the trumpet judgments, we will see that many of these OT plagues will be repeated in the future but this time it will not be limited to Egypt.  It will affect the whole world and there will not just be ten of them.  There will be twenty-one of them (or really nineteen because the seventh seal will be the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet will be the seventh bowls).

The trumpet judgments will be literal plagues.  I say this because many try to allegorize these plagues.  A storm means a storm of heresy.  A mountain means a kingdom.  A falling star means political leaders losing their power.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses read the text that way.   They believe that the word “earth” refers to Christendom, which makes up one-third of the total population of the earth and the trees to the pastors of those churches.

How do we know that the trumpet judgments will be literal?  They must be literal   because they parallel the ten plagues of Egypt.  Those were literal plagues.  They weren’t figures of speech.  If the ten plagues were literal, the seven trumpets will be literal as well.  They may not be written in modern scientific language but the plagues are literal plagues.

THE FIRST TRUMPET

Nature

EgyptianPlagues

                      Result

Hail and fire mixed with blood is hurled down to the earth. That is a strange combination (fire and ice mixed with blood). It is similar to the plague of hail and fire (Exodus 9:22-25) which was described as “the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation”. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. Three parts of the earth are affected (land, grass and trees). This will affect agriculture, vegetation and the food supply. Forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area. Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment. Removing one-third of the trees means that one sixth of all the oxygen is gone. That would increase carbon dioxide in our environment. Trees affect the water cycle. They help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere and seventy percent of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests. Many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes. It will involve loss of wood for construction.

THE SECOND TRUMPET

Nature

Egyptian Plagues

     Result

A huge fiery object is thrown into the sea.  A giant fireball from outer space falls from the sky and lands in the sea.  John does not say what it is (a huge asteroid or meteorite) but what it looked like (“like a mountain”). The first Egyptian plague which turned the Nile river to blood and killed the fish (Exodus 7:17-24), although that deals with a river and not an ocean.   A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

THE THIRD TRUMPET

Nature

Egyptian Plagues

          Result

A great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.  Fire is involved in the first three trumpet judgments. This is similar again to the first plague of Egypt. “The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt” (Exodus 7:21). A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.  This directly affects drinking water.    We need water to live and get clean drinking water from rivers.  Some die from this plague (8:11).

THE FOURTH TRUMPET

Nature

Egyptian Plagues

Result

A third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars This was similar to the ninth plague of Egypt, the plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21-23). That darkness was total but was just limited to Egypt. This darkness was partial but will affect more than Egypt and may last longer. The tenth plague only lasted three days. The fifth bowl judgment will involve total darkness A third of the stars turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. This will affect the cycle of day and night. This leaves many questions unanswered. How it will happen? Will God speed up the rotation of the earth so we have sixteen hour days, instead of twenty-four hour days, so both day and night are one third shorter (eight hours each)? Will it affect how bright the sun shines (intensity rather than duration).  No one knows.

Lessons

1. God uses angels to judge people.

Angels are used in judgment.  The seven trumpets and blown by angels.  The seven bowls will be poured out by angels.  God used angels to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1, 13).  An angel was used to destroy 185,000 members of the Assyrian army (II Kings 19:35).  An angel was used to judge wicked King Herod (Acts 12:23).

2. God’s judgments are an answer to prayer.

These judgments are released by the praying martyrs.  Judgment doesn’t come to earth until the prayers of the saints go up to God.  The trumpet judgments are an answer to their prayers.  God values and responds to the prayers of his people.   The lesson here is that God answers prayers.  He hears our prayer.  Don’t stop praying.  He wants us to pray.  He compares it to incense (5:8; 8:4).

3. Natural disasters should bring us closer to God.

While the trumpets are judgments on earth, they were intended to produce repentance.  That is not the response, as we will see in chapter 9.  Most people in the Tribulation period will harden their heart (9:20-21; 16:9, 11, 21), just as the Ten Plagues only hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 8:15; 9:12-16).  Whenever there is a natural disaster today, like the Tsunami should caused people to fall on their knees.  They should be a call to repentance.

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