The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, , at sacred-texts.com
rev 8:0SUMMARY.--The Silence in Heaven. The Seven Angels with the Seven Trumpets. The Incense Offered. The Fire Cast on the Earth. The First Angel Sounds; Hail, Fire, and Blood Follow. The Second Trumpet and the Mountain Cast into the Sea. The Third Trumpet and the Great Burning Stars. The Fourth Trumpet and the Sun Darkened.
When he opened the seventh seal. It is the Lamb who opens all the seals.
There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. There has been a great effort among commentators to interpret the meaning of this silence. I think that it is a hush of awe before the march of the awful judgments about to come, the calm before the storm breaks forth, the oppressive silence before the burst of battle. It is designed to emphasize the events that follow.
And I saw. Thus John introduces the vision of each seal. The vision is not the silence in heaven, but what John saw. On this point some commentators make a mistake here. What he saw was the seven angels which stand before God; that is, the angels who act as his immediate ministering servants, to whom were given seven trumpets. The seventh seal, therefore, embraces these angels and their trumpets, and all they do in the following verses belongs to this seal. The seventh and last seal will not be exhausted until the seven trumpet angels have discharged their mission.
And another angel came and stood over the altar. The scene reveals the altar of the tabernacle, "a pattern made after heavenly things." This is the altar of sacrifice from which the coal was always taken to light the incense (Lev 16:13). This angel receives the incense and offers it upon the golden altar, the altar of incense. The incense is "the prayers of the saints;" these to reach the throne must be lighted from the altar of sacrifice; or by faith in the blood of the Lamb of God.
And the smoke. As the smoke arose before the throne, so the prayers of the saints in the name of the crucified Savior arise to God. The special significance of all this is that in the terrible judgments about to follow, the prayers of the true and faithful saints will still come before God, and his providence will be over them.
And the angel . . . filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it upon the earth. Fire is usually a symbol of suffering. This fire cast from the altar upon the earth indicates that the judgments of God are about to fall upon it. The earth in the sense used by John is the great Roman Empire, which embraced the civilized world.
There followed thunders, etc. These mutterings and the quaking are ominous of the terrible scenes to follow when the angels sound their trumpets.
And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets. See Rev 8:2. There is the utmost deliberation. All must be made ready. The four angels hold back the winds (Rev 7:1), then there was the silence of half an hour (Rev 8:1); now the seven angels prepared themselves to sound. This implies that all things were being made ready for the great events to follow. Trumpets. The trumpet is used to give a signal. Usually it implied the march or charge of armies. See Joe 2:1, Joe 2:15; Jer 4:5; Eze 33:1-6. Sometimes it calls the people to worship. See Num 31:6; Ch1 15:24. The reader will see that the first is likely to be the significance here.
The first angel sounded. When the trumpet sounded there followed the wonderful scenes described. When the first trumpet is blown John beholds a mighty storm-cloud rush over the earth. From it pour hail and fire mingled with blood. They fall upon the earth and a third part is scorched and blasted. These terms indicate desolation by some kind of judgments. The scene of the desolation is "the earth," or the Roman Empire in John's use of the term. The blood indicates carnage. The scorched and blasted land indicates the devastation of destroying armies. The language implies a terrible destruction descending upon a third of the world known to John.
And the second angel sounded. Then the scene changes. Now a great burning mountain is cast into the sea. The sea is the theatre of destruction. Again there is fire and blood indicating carnage and destruction. In the first judgment the third part of the earth suffers; but now a third part of the sea. The symbols imply that some mighty volcanic power shall be turned upon the sea, and make it a scene of awful warfare and destruction.
And the third angel sounded. With the third trumpet the vision again changes. Now a great, burning, blazing meteor falls upon a third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters. A "third part of the earth," a "third part of the sea," and now "a third part of the rivers" are subjected to judgments.
And the name of the star is called Wormwood. That is, it is bitterness, because it shall fill the world with bitter sorrow. A star is a symbol of a great leader. Such a star as this, a blazing meteor, is a symbol of a leader who suddenly appears, rapidly does an awfully baleful work, and then disappears. In some way the rivers will be the scenes of his malign influence. They shall become bitterness and shall be scenes of death.
And the fourth angel sounded. Again the scene changes. Now it is the third part of the sun, and of the moon, and of the stars that is smitten, and darkness follows. The sun is a symbol of the supreme ruler, and the moon and stars of inferior dignities. If the Roman emperor, ruler of the world, should be cast from power, his empire overthrown, the consuls, senators, and great men who supported his power be cast to the dust, and a period of intellectual and moral darkness should follow, it would fully meet the symbolism.
And I beheld, and heard an angel. An eagle in the Revision. The flight of this messenger through the midst of heaven shows that an epoch has been passed with the four trumpet visions, and that another epoch is about to begin. The voice proclaims, Woe, woe, woe. There are three woes; there are three woe angels.
Upon the inhabitants of the earth. Upon the earth as known to John. The geographical scene of those events which are historical must be looked for somewhere within the bounds of the great Roman world.