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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 8


Chapter 8

1. When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
3. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,
4. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
5. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
6. Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. 

The power of prayer in heaven

In chapter 5, verse 8, each of the 24 elders held golden bowls full of incense, which the text reveals, are emblematic of the saints’ prayers. The Psalmist called to the Lord: “Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice!” (Ps.141:2). We will notice that the common believer is called a saint, because the secret behind the privilege of prayer in the Holy of Holies in heaven is the imputed, perfect holiness of Christ, with which he is clothed. We could not approach the throne of God in prayer by our own holiness. We notice in the Psalm that heavenly realities are depicted symbolically in Old Testament worship.

The 24 representatives of God’s people on earth present their prayers before the throne and, in this way, John’s Revelation is teaching us the significance of prayer. It is the most important activity of the church. Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mk.11:17). Prayers will outlive us and continue to be effective in heaven.

In this interlude between the opening of the seals and the sounding of trumpets, the Holy Spirit gives us more insight concerning this marvelous weapon of prayer (v.3). Our voices may seem very feeble, our eloquence limited, and, at least at times, our prayers may lack fervor and seem not even to reach the ceiling of our prayer chamber. However, in Jacob’s dream, he saw a ladder reaching into heaven and angels were ascending and descending upon it. Jesus showed Nathanael that He was that ladder… He is the connection between earth and heaven. The first direction taken by the angels, in both Jacob’s dream, as in Jesus’ promise to Nathanael, is ascension (Ge.28:12; Jn.1:51).

Angels take these weak, stumbling words from our lips and carry them into the presence of God by the merits of Jesus Christ. The altar of incense in the tabernacle and in the temple symbolized the prayers of the saints, as we have already learned. In our text, we see an angel with a golden censer at heaven’s true altar in the sanctuary that the Lord pitched and not man (He.8:2). God, as is His nature, generously gives abundant incense to offer on the golden altar with the saints’ prayers. In God’s throne room, the Holy of Holies, and from the angel’s hand, the prayers, mingled with incense, ascend before God (v.4).

Even in the climactic events of Daniel’s 70th Week, the spiritual principle is unbroken. What has been true throughout church history continues to be true: When God intends to begin a significant work, He first sets His people to praying. The instruments involved in this work are of pure gold, symbolizing the priceless, heavenly quality of this connection between heaven and earth. Do we see its value? Then, what should de our reaction and resolve to participate in it?  This is the scene in heaven that takes place after the opening of the seventh seal.

In an earlier chapter, I tried to describe the silence in heaven, which speaks volumes about the atmosphere of electric expectancy among the multitudes in heaven (v.1). Next, we see seven angels, who are given seven trumpets. They stand at attention, awaiting the command to sound (v.2). We observe the process involving prayer, which has been offered to God over the centuries, pleading that He should move in righteousness and power to make right the wrongs committed on earth.

The time has come for these prayers to be answered. The same angel, involved in offering the prayers to God, now is given authority to administer the answer. It is consistent with His ways that angels ascend to heaven with prayers, and angels descend from heaven with the answers to prayer (Ge.24:40; Nu.20:16; Dn.9:23; Lk.1:13; Ac.10:3,4; Ac.12:5,7). Prayer does its mighty work and peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake occur in the earth (v.5). The seven trumpets will now sound (v.6).

7.  The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
8.  The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood.
9.  A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
10. The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.
11. The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter.
12. The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.
13. Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”

The first four trumpets

We see a similarity between the seven seals and the seven trumpets. They were both divided into two sets. All of the living beings were involved in the first four seals, but are not mentioned in the second part. Likewise, the seven trumpet plagues are divided into two sets of four and three. Please notice a difference between the seals and the trumpets: The seals had an effect upon the fourth part of the earth, but the trumpets will result in various destructive events that will affect a third of earth’s creation.

Whereas the seals were caused principally by the deeds and sins of humankind, it will become evident with the trumpets that there is a graduation into a more deadly, sinister destruction from spiritual sources, especially in the second set. Therefore, the damage increases, when these supernatural forces are turned loose. Angels herald these disasters and the sound of trumpets, in the same way that they are utilized throughout Scripture, summon them and announce their coming.

Remember that this book is a revelation, that is, an uncovering, and not a book that is intended to keep secrets. As in all Scripture, we must continue to see these events as literally as possible. There is an “as it were” or “something like” description of unnatural things. Beginning with the angel at the altar and in the case of all four trumpets in this chapter, these plagues are cast down upon the earth (whereas the riders from the seals came out into the earth). John looks on them with his natural eyes, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and will attempt to describe them to us, as best as human language will allow. If evil spirits are involved, they are revealed to John and, because we are largely unfamiliar with this world, the descriptions will be hard to imagine, but none the less real. 

The first trumpet (v.7): At the sounding of the first trumpet, two destructive forces are unleashed... hail and fire. We know the damage that untimely hail storms can cause to property and crops. Also raging wildfires destroy untold acres of vegetation, and often consume residential districts, at the cost of lives. This disaster is supernaturally mixed with blood. The fact that they extend, burning and crushing a third part of the land on the planet, indicates something beyond any natural force. Yet there is a sovereign limitation that prevents total destruction. 

The second trumpet (v.8-9):  Here is a “something like” description. I can see John struggling, perhaps over a long period of time, as he tries to convey what he saw. He doesn’t know exactly what it is, and we know much less, so we will have to be satisfied that this is something like a great mountain, burning with fire, just as John says.

It comes to mind that the unfolding of the trumpet disasters are a result of the saints’ prayers. Relative to this mountain being cast into the sea, I remember Jesus’ words, “If you have faith and do not doubt… even if you say to this  mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen”  (Mt.21:21). Warren Wiersbe comments: “Like it or not, the prayers of God’s people are involved in the judgments that He sends… The purpose of prayer… is not to get man’s will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth – even if that will involves judgment. True prayer is serious business, so we had better not move the altar too far from the throne!” Three-quarters of the planet is sea and this disaster affects 1/3 of marine life. It causes a great tidal wave that destroys 1/3 of the ships. A third of every sea creature… fish, mammal and simpler life, dies. One third of the saltwater is tainted with their blood.

The third trumpet (v.10-11): A great star falls from heaven glowing, as if it were on fire. This catastrophe is directed towards the fresh water, whereas the former one went into the salt water seas. Again, its effect covers 1/3 of the rivers and their fountains. It doesn’t mention, whether or not the lakes, into which the rivers flow, are effected. Consider the Amazon, Rio de la Plata, the Mississippi, the Rhine, to name a few, 1/3 of them polluted with bitter poison.

Wormwood is a plant which, above all its properties, is known for its bitterness. Its scientific name is Artemisia, named after the goddess Artemis or Diana.  It is a medicinal plant, used in very limited amounts, because of its toxic nature, through which it damages the brain and causes seizures. Moses warned Israel, “Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit (namely wormwood)(Dt.29:18). Jeremiah prophesied to them, “I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink” (Jer.23:15). Biblically, bitter waters signify that they are toxic (Ex.15:23; Nu.5:18) and many people die from the waters embittered by Wormwood.

What I find most interesting about this burning star is its proper name, Wormwood, indicating that it has personality. Stars describe the leaders of the Asia Minor churches and, whether positive or negative, stars speak of high positions, not only among men, but among demons. In chapter 9, verse 1, there is also a star personality, who releases a horde of demons upon the earth.   

The fourth trumpet (v.12): This last trumpet, of the first series of four, ushers in a temporal reduction of light from heavenly bodies. It is not hard to conclude that this is pollution caused by the supernatural manifestation of smoke and fire in the three earlier phenomena… fire mixed with blood (v.7), a great mountain burning with fire (v.8), a star blazing like a torch (v.10). Joel prophesied of these times: “I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:30-31).

In verse 13, the King James Version translates the messenger as an angel, but almost all other versions translate eagle, because that is the Greek word found in almost all the old manuscripts of the New Testament. Supposing the angel is the eagle cherubim mentioned in chapter 4-6, that would satisfy both translations. This would be one of the four, who cry day and night, “Holy, holy, holy,” but now cries with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe”.

The great importance lies in the message rather than the messenger… a single word, shouted three times from the high heaven, from which these judgments are falling. He cries specifically from mid-heaven, where his presence and voice is conspicuous to all. Because the Lord is thrice-holy, He sends His last three trumpet judgments, with still severer disasters, because of the world’s sin and rebellion. A woe is uttered for each of the trumpet blasts that will soon follow upon the earth’s inhabitants.

I again quote Warren Wiersbe: “It is as though the messenger cried, ‘If you think this has been terrible, just wait! The worst is yet to come!... The phrase ‘inhabiters of the earth’ (or them that dwell on the earth) is found twelve times in Revelation. It means much more than ‘people who live on the earth,’… Instead, it refers to a kind of people: those who live for the earth and the things of the earth. These are just the opposite of people who have their citizenship in heaven (Php.3:18-21).” At this final period of world history, God’s people can be extremely happy to have heavenly citizenship.


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