Revelation 8–10. Act II, Scene II. Seven Trumpets.
Key Notes: Destruction includes armies as well as natural events.Three prayers. The mystery of God.
The seven trumpets sound the beginning content of the now-opened scroll. They are quite different from the seals, both in content and intensity. The first four trumpets are sounded not to attack mankind primarily, but to strike the natural world. The text is strange and we do not claim to understand its implications. We will describe it and hope to come up with some valuable truths.
8:1–6 Before the Seven Trumpets sounds, the prayers of the saints are cast down on the earth, and produce voices, thunder, lightning and a great earthquake.
8:7 Trumpet 1. Fire falls on the earth, consuming 1/3 of the trees and grasses.
8:8–9 Trumpet 2. A third of the ships and sea creatures are destroyed by something like a volcanic explosion.
8:10–11 Trumpet 3. A falling star (asteroid?) causes pollution of a 1/3 of the rivers and springs of water so that people died.
8:12 Trumpet 4. One third of the light of the sun, moon and stars is blocked.
9:1–11 Trumpet 5. A star falls from Heaven. It is not an asteroid. This is evidently Satan, who opens the abyss and smoke and locust-like beasts come forth. The beasts are allowed to torment any who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. The locusts are bizarre; they look like horses with gold crowns, women’s hair, lions' teeth, iron scales and stinging tails. (Locusts have been called "little horses.") They cause great pain, but not death. Their leader is the angel of the abyss, Abaddon or Apollyon, the Destroyer.
9:13–21 Trumpet 6. Four angels at the Euphrates are released to send out 200 million cavalry-men, also bizarre. Their horses have lions' head and tails that wound, breathing out fire and brimstone that kills 1/3 of mankind. Their riders have breastplates colored red, blue and yellow.
The significance of these unearthly creatures from Trumpets 5 and 6 may be their very abnormal appearance: the two sets of malignant beings that have never been seen before would incite great fear. But those who are not killed by the plagues do not repent of their evil deeds: idol-worship, murder, sorcery, sexual immorality and theft. Evidently, the intent of the plagues is repentance. It appears that God is using evil to attack evil.
10:1–7 A huge and mighty angel comes down from heaven (John is now standing on the earth), looking much like John's original vision of Christ. When he speaks, seven thunders sound, but John is not permitted to reveal the message. The angel announces that with Trumpet 7, the mystery of God would be fulfilled.
10:8–11 John is then given a little scroll to eat, sweet to the taste but bitter in his belly. This is a sign that he has much prophetic work still to do and that it is likely to be hard to digest.
11:1–14 The vision of the two witnesses will be taken up as a separate lesson. 11:15 At the sound of the seventh Trumpet , loud voices in heaven proclaim that the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of God and Christ. This is the mystery of God--that He will assume the power of earthly political rule. The completion of this mystery will be given in Rev.19:11–20:6.
The lack of repentance of people on the earth in response to plagues is remarkable. In one sense God's judgments don't "work". Egypt did not repent in spite of ten plagues. Israel almost died out under God's pounding and purifying. Rome never repented, but was replaced after her collapse by many smaller states. But the attrition weakens evil and accomplishes God's purposes over stubborn human resistance.
Eating the scroll is a metaphor found in two other places.
"Thy words were found, and I ate them, and thy words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Thy Name, O Lord, God of hosts." (Jer.15:16)
"And He said to me, 'Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it'. Then I ate it; and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey." (Ezek.3:3)
The Word of God tastes good, but it was bitter for John in the end because he did not relish the wrath of God. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel also had messages of judgment but did not consider them bitter.
The power of prayer is seen in three visions so far in Revelation.
*"...each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (Rev.5:8)
We underestimate the pleasure our prayers give to God. They are incense to Him.
*"...they cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?'" (Rev.6:10)
God hears and responds to the prayers of His saints.
*"...incense rose with the prayers of the saints.... Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth." (Rev.8:4–5).
The fire of God upon the earth is the prayer of the saints. Our prayers have an impact on our world.
What is the mystery of God? Mystery is that "which was not made known...in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Eph.3:5). A biblical mystery is not secret but a truth previously spoken but not fully understood. The great mystery of Revelation is that the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of Christ. He will rule upon the earth.
Here are some other examples.
•"Great is the mystery of godliness...." that is, the Incarnation. (ITim.3:16)
• "...the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Our union with Christ is a mystery. (Col.1:27)
In summary, although the passage is filled with frightening and mysterious events, some of the mystery has been made clear to us. God has made known to us the mystery of His will for our lives and outlined the plan of our redemption in unmistakable terms.