We’re beginning to see a progression of events as we reach the end of the seals. The 7th seal contains the 7 trumpet judgments, and the 7th trumpet judgment contains the 7 bowl judgments. Each set of judgments (seals, trumpets, and bowls) get progressively worse. Fruchtenbaum divides the tribulation into 4 quarters and places the trumpet judgments in the 2nd quarter of the tribulation, extending into the second half. Revelation 8:1 tells us that “when the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” This silence is known as the prelude to the 7th seal judgment.
“When heaven falls silent for about half an hour, when all the singing, glorifying, and praising ceases, there will be a deep sense of foreboding. The judgments, every righteous soul knows, must be formidable in the extreme, yet they will shudder in awe at the prospect of having to witness their administration” (Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 8:1).
After this profound silence, Revelation 8:2 introduces “the seven angels who stand before God.” These angels are different from previous angels mentioned and stand ready to receive the seven trumpet judgments. These trumpets announce God’s continued judgments on the world.
An eighth angel in verse 3 stood at the altar, holding a golden censer. We are told that “much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.” Walvoord says, “this is a beautiful picture of the prayers of the saints as seen from heaven. In the Old Testament order, priests would burn incense upon the altar of incense, and the smoke would fill the Temple or the Tabernacle and would then ascend to heaven. Incense was symbolic of worship and prayer and a reminder that intercession to the Lord has the character of sweet incense” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 152).
“And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake” (Revelation 8:4-5 NASB1995). MacArthur says, “God’s wrath and His people’s prayers are connected” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Rev. 8:4). Johnson says, “here, there is an explicit connection between the petitions of the saints and the resulting judgment” (Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. 8:5).
The first trumpet contains a mixture of hail, fire and blood thrown to the earth burning up one third of the earth, green grass, and trees. This is similar to the specific plagues of Egypt found in Exodus 9 (Exodus 9:18-26). What is the meaning of the blood? “Here we have another helpful suggestion from the plagues of Egypt. The hail was of such character according to Exodus 9:19, 25 that it destroyed not only vegetation but also men and beasts who were caught in it. Whether or not blood was actually included in the hail and fire cast on the earth, the result was bloodshed of man and beast, though the main burden of the judgment seems to be that of destroying vegetation” (Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 153).
The second trumpet sounded and “a great mountain burning with fire” (v. 8-9) was thrown into the sea. This appears to be a volcano or a meteor hurled from space into the sea. A third of the sea becomes blood, killing a third of the sea life along with destroying a third of the ships. This judgment affects the ocean, while the next trumpet judgment affects rivers and streams. Here we have another similarity to the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:14-25).
The third trumpet causes a great star named Wormwood to fall from heaven polluting the rivers and springs of the earth (Rev. 8:10-11). Many men will die from the bitter waters. Walvoord says, “the star seems to be a heavenly body or a mass from outer space, understandably burning as it enters the atmosphere of earth, and falling with contaminating influence upon the rivers and waters” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 156).
The fourth trumpet causes one third of the world’s light sources to go dark (Rev. 8:12). The light of one third of the sun, moon, and stars is “hindered from reaching the earth. As a result of this judgment, one third of the light source for the daytime and one third of the light source for the nighttime is blacked out” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 222).
Fruchtenbaum says, “because they will be especially severe for mankind on the earth, they are called ‘woe judgments.’ As bad as the first four judgments were, the latter three will be far more drastic.” He goes on to say, “This severity is so pronounced that there is a warning of their approach sounded with a voice in the atmospheric heavens. The eagle mentioned in the verse is most likely a seraph (Rev. 4:7) chosen to give this warning to the earth” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 222 -223).
The fifth trumpet contains the first woe judgment (Rev. 9:1-12). A fallen angel is given the key to the abyss and releases hordes of demons to torment the earth. This is the first of two invasions of demons. These locust-like demons are commanded not to hurt the grass, green plants or trees, “but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Rev. 9:4). They are not allowed to kill anyone, but only to torment mankind with scorpion-like stings for 5 months. The 144,000 sealed believers are protected from this judgment, and it is possible that the Tribulation Saints are protected as well. Men will be tormented to the extent that they beg to die but death will not come to them.
The sixth trumpet contains the second woe judgment (Rev. 9:13-21). “With the sounding of the 6th trumpet, four fallen angels, bound at the Euphrates River are released, for they are the elders of the second demonic invasion [and specifically prepared for this purpose] (v. 13-15). While the first demonic invasion was led by one fallen angel [Apollyon], this one is led by four” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 225). These four angels lead a demonic army commissioned to kill one third of the earth’s population. “The number of demons involved in this invasion is given as two hundred million“ (p. 225). Some commentators interpret this as being a Chinese army possibly connected to the kings of the east mentioned in Rev. 16:12. Hitchcock says, “it is much better to identify this massive army as a second wave of demonic invaders who assault the earth during the tribulation” (The End, p. 356).
It’s hard to comprehend the death and destruction caused by the seal and trumpet judgments. By the end of the 6th trumpet, more than half of the world’s population will have died. Jesus said, “unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matthew 24:22 NASB1995).
“The tribulation period unmasks human wickedness and also demonstrates the true character of Satan. In our modern day while Satan is still restricted, it is easy to forget the great conflict which is raging between the forces of God and the forces of Satan referred to in Ephesians 6:12. In the great tribulation, and especially in the time of the fifth trumpet with the release of the confined demons, the full character of Satan will be starkly manifested. For the first time in history, all those who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior will come under demonic possession and affliction” (Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 163-164).
The trumpet judgments bring further devastation to both the earth itself and to the people on the earth. Sadly, “mankind still refuses to repent (Rev. 9:20-21). They continue to worship the same demons who have tormented them for five months and have just destroyed one third of their number. The trumpet judgments come to an end by the middle of the tribulation period” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 228).
Week 7: Homework Reflections
Days One-Three: Prelude to the Seventh Seal
- Read Revelation 8:1-5. What happens when the Lamb breaks the seventh seal? (verse 1)
- Read Zephaniah 1:7; Psalm 76:8-9, Hab. 2:20; and Zechariah 2:13 and list what you learn about silence associated with God’s holiness and righteous judgments.
- What was the purpose of the golden censer and what did the angel do with it?
- Read Rev. 5:8; Psalm 141:2; 2 Chron. 30:27; and Acts 10:4. What do you learn about prayer and how does it compare to Rev. 8:3-5?
Day Four: The First Five Trumpets
- Read Revelation 8:7-12 and describe the first four trumpets.
- What do you learn about the remaining blasts of the trumpets in verse 13?
- Read Revelation 9:1-6 and list everything you learn about the fifth trumpet.
- How are the locusts described in Revelation 9:7-12? Who is their leader?
- What do you learn about the bottomless pit (the abyss) in Luke 8:26-31?
Day Five: The Sixth Trumpet
- Read Revelation 9:13-21 and describe what happens in the sixth trumpet.
- Read Joel 1:15-2:11. This passage describes the two demonic invasions from Revelation 9. What do you learn?
- According to Revelation 9 verses 20-21, what was man worshiping and what was their response to God’s righteous judgments?
- What do you learn about idolatry in Psalm 115:1-18; Isaiah 46:5-7; Jeremiah 10:14-16; Habakkuk 2:18-20; and Acts 14:11-15?
- Read Jeremiah 5:3-4 and Amos 4:6-13. These passages are about Israel, but what do you learn about the unrepentant heart of mankind and the character of Almighty God? How does this reminder compare to Revelation 9:20-21?