Revelation Chapters 8 and 9, Part 1
by Karl Kemp
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This article was taken in part from the internet version of my paper titled "A Verse-by-Verse Study of Revelation Chapters 1-10," which was taken from the paper by that title which was published in July, 1999. I was able to use bold, italics, underlining, and footnotes in the original paper and the version on my internet site. Sometimes I will use double brackets [[ ]] and (( )) to make them more obvious. All quotations from the Bible were taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition, unless otherwise noted. Are you aware that you can click on my name beside any of my articles on this Christian article site and see a listing of all my articles on this site (so too for any author)?
Every verse of the book of Revelation is discussed in papers on my internet site, except for Rev. 11:1-14:5, which are discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." For a condensed version, see my paper titled "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture" that is available on my internet site. Those twenty-four articles are available individually on this Christian article site: "The Mid-Week Rapture, Part 1," and so on. Those twenty-four articles serve as a good introduction for my book and for the mid-week rapture viewpoint (that Christ will return and the rapture will take place right in the middle of the seven-year period that is sometimes called Daniel's 70th week). I'll supplement this article with excerpts from article #s18, 19 of "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture."
The first four of the seven trumpets of the book of Revelation sound in Revelation chapter 8; the fifth and sixth trumpets (also called the first and second woes) sound in Revelation chapter 9. The first five trumpets are in the category of warning judgments: They warn mankind that the day of judgment is imminent. The events of the sixth trumpet go beyond just being a warning judgment because of their awesome intensity: A third of mankind (probably not a third of the entire population of the earth, which would be more than two billion people) will be killed in a very short period of time.
"When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. [I assume this time of silence goes with the awesome significance of the Lamb's breaking the seventh and last seal. Now the all-important scroll that the Lord Jesus took from God the Father in Revelation chapter 5 can be opened.] (2) And I saw the [The definite article is included in the Greek.] seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. [[These seven angels, who clearly have a high standing before God, have not been mentioned before in the book of Revelation, at least not specifically mentioned. They're mentioned again in Rev. 8:6 and then individually in the following verses as each one progressively sounds his trumpet (Rev. 8:7, 8, 10, 12; 9:1, 13, (14); and 11:15). (It seems clear that they are different than the seven angels with the seven bowls of wrath [e.g., Rev. 15:1, 6-8].) Many commentators believe these seven angels are the seven archangels.
I had a footnote here, F. F. Bruce ("New Layman's Bible Commentary" [Zondervan, 1979], page 1692), for example, says, "Gabriel identifies himself as one of these [that is, as an angel who stands before God] (Luke 1:19); cf. Tobit 12:15, where Raphael describes himself as 'one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and stand before the presence of the glory of the Holy One.' The names of all seven appear in 1 Enoch 20:2-8 as Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel and Remiel: 'the archangels' names are seven.' "
Craig S. Keener ("Bible Background Commentary" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1993], page 785) says, "Between the Old Testament and the New Testament Judaism had settled on seven archangels (adding five to the two important angels named in Daniel), and they are probably in view here." It's clear that Michael is the (or, an) archangel (Jude 1:9; cf. 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 12:7; Dan. 10:13, 21; and 12:1). It's also clear that Gabriel is a mighty angel of God (Dan. 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26; cf. Dan. 10:10-21). Daniel 10:13 is interesting, "But the prince of the kingdom of Persia [an evil angel] was withstanding me [probably Gabriel] for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes , came to help me...." The words "one of the chief princes" fit the idea that there are other archangels.]] (3) [[Revelation 8:3-5 are discussed on pages 174-176 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." For the full discussion, see pages 165-179. I didn't comment hardly at all on verses 3-5 in the original version of this paper since these verses were thoroughly discussed in my book, but after I quote verses 3-5 and make a few comments, I'll include a lengthy excerpt on Rev. 8:1-5 from Article #19 of my paper titled, "Twenty-Four Articles on The Mid-Week Rapture."]] Another angel [As discussed in my book in some detail, this angel/Angel apparently is the Angel of the LORD [Yahweh] of the Old Testament (God the Son).] came and stood at the [sacrificial] altar, holding a golden censer [or, firepan]; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to [offer it with] the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. (4) And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand. (5) Then the angel took the censer [or, firepan] and filled it with the fire of the [sacrificial] altar, and threw it to the earth [Compare Ezek. 10:2. The first three trumpets all include fire (in one form or another) being thrown to the earth/sea, and the sixth trumpet mentions the plague of fire (Rev. 9:17, 18). On the fire of God's judgment in the book of Revelation, also see Rev. 11:5; 14:10, 18; 16:8; 17:16; 18:8; 19:20; 20:9, 10, 14, 15; and 21:8.]; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake [cf. Rev. 11:19; 16:18].
Lengthy Excerpt Dealing with Rev. 8:1-5 from Article #19 of my paper, "Twenty-Four Articles on the Mid-Week Rapture":
Now we'll go on to Revelation chapter 8. I'll read verse 1, "When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." I assume this time of silence goes with the awesome significance of the Lamb's breaking the seventh and last seal. Now the all-important scroll that the Lord Jesus Christ took from God the Father back in chapter 5 can be opened. Once the scroll is opened, we begin to receive much super-important revelation of things that had not been revealed before, starting with the revelation of the seven angels with the seven trumpets, which will announce the coming of the Lord Jesus, the resurrection and rapture, and the day of judgment.
The Lord Jesus will return at the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet, right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. The seventh trumpet is extremely important. God's plans to save and glorify His people and to judge the world at the end of this age will come to pass under the sounding of that trumpet (see Rev. 10:7; 11:15-19, for example). This is very important information, especially for the people who will be living on the earth at the time of Daniel's 70th week, which probably includes us.
I'll read Rev. 8:2, "And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them." These seven angels, who clearly have a high standing with God, are mentioned again in verse 6, and then individually in the following verses as each angel progressively sounds his trumpet in chapters 8 and 9, with the seventh and last angel sounding his trumpet at Rev. 11:15.
The next verses, verses 3-5, contain some very important information that is related to the sounding of the trumpets and God's end-time salvation of His people and His end-time judgment of the world. In verses 3, 4 the prayers of the saints are offered before God. For one thing, these verses help demonstrate that the events associated with the sounding of the seven trumpets will come to pass (in part) in answer to the prayers of the saints. I'm speaking especially of prayers like "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
It is important to know that the judgments associated with the trumpets will not be coming against believers. And it is important to know that God's promised full and final salvation will come to all the members of His true Israel under the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Knowing that these things will come to pass in accordance with the will of God, and in answer to our prayers, helps give us the right perspective as we discuss the seven trumpets.
In verses 3 and 4 we read of an "angel" offering our prayers before God, and in verse 5 we read of this same "angel" casting fire on the earth, which will initiate God's end-time judgment of the world. I cannot be dogmatic on this point, but I believe the evidence is very strong for the point of view that this "angel/Angel" is the Lord Jesus Christ, and I favor this viewpoint. We'll discuss this viewpoint as we continue. These verses become all the more interesting if the Lord Jesus Christ is the One doing these things.
I'll read verses 3 and 4 from the New King James Bible. (Unless I mention otherwise, I always quote from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition.) "Then another angel, having a golden censer [or, fire-pan], came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar [upon the golden altar of incense] which was before the throne. (4) And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from [or, out of] the angel's hand."
First let's discuss these words, "another angel." This angel is another angel in distinction from the "seven angels" of Rev. 8:2. As I mentioned, I favor the viewpoint that this "angel/Angel" is the Lord Jesus Christ. Quite a few commentators agree. I discussed this viewpoint in substantial detail in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture." I admit, of course, that it is highly unusual to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as an "another angel," but I believe the evidence for this viewpoint is so strong that I have to favor this viewpoint. Of course God the Son is not a created angel, but He did appear quite often in the Old Testament as the Angel of Yahweh.
As I mentioned when we discussed Rev. 7:2 in the last article, it is easier to see the Lord Jesus Christ behind the words "another angel" in that verse if He is also called "another angel" in Rev. 8:3-5 and "another strong angel" in Rev. 10:1, which seems to be the case. As the following discussion of Rev. 8:3-5 will demonstrate, these verses strongly support identifying this angel with the Lord Jesus Christ. Anyway, whether this person is the Lord Jesus Christ, or not, does not substantially affect the overall interpretation of these verses. If it isn't the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a high level angel who perfectly fulfills His assignments, as God's angels always do.
Apparently this "angel/Angel" is standing by the sacrificial altar here; the altar mentioned in verse 5 is the sacrificial altar also. The sacrificial altar is different than the golden altar (of incense) that is before the throne of God. We should think of hot coals being taken from the sacrificial altar and carried in the golden censer (or, fire-pan) to the golden altar (of incense). That's what the priests did twice a day in the ancient temple at Jerusalem.
I'll read verses 3 and 4 again (NKJV) before we further discuss these verses, "Then another angel, having a golden censer [or, fire-pan], came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. (4) And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand." Apparently the incense that was given to this "angel/Angel" (which ultimately came from God the Father as part of His overall plan of salvation) represents that which makes the prayers of the saints acceptable and effective before God. Apparently this incense represents the fruit of the mediatorial work of the Son of God. Through His incarnation and atoning death, the Lord Jesus Christ has earned the right to function as our great high priest (compare Heb. 4:14-16; 5:5, 6; 7:15-8:6; 9:1-28; and 13:15). He has also earned the right to judge the world and to remove all the unrepentant rebels, starting with the devil.
The mediatorial role of this "angel/Angel" is emphasized by the fact that the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, "ascended before God from [or, out of] the angel's [Angel's] hand." It hardly needs to be said that the mediatorial role of this "angel/Angel" perfectly fits the Lord Jesus Christ, our great high priest.
Before we leave verses 3 and 4, I should point out that the fact that John "heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God" when the sixth angel sounded his trumpet helps confirm that the judgments associated with the trumpets are coming (in part) in answer to our prayers. They are not coming against God's people. Under the fifth trumpet, for example, the demonic locusts will not be permitted to touch God's elect.
Now I'll read Rev. 8:5. As we will see, this verse lends very strong support to the idea that this "angel/Angel" is the Lord Jesus Christ. "Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar [undoubtedly referring to fire from the sacrificial altar], and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake." Apparently this casting of fire to the earth initiates God's end-time judgment of the world that will come to pass under the sounding of the trumpets. It certainly would be appropriate for the Lord Jesus Christ to be One who initiates the end-time judgment of the world. The Scriptures make it quite clear that the end-time judgment of the world has been given into His hand (see, for example, Matt. 13:36-43; 16:27; 25:1-46; John 5:22-29; Acts 10:42; 17:30, 31; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; and 2:8-12).
It is quite significant that this casting of fire to the earth apparently builds on Ezekiel chapter 10, where the "man dressed in linen" scattered coals of fire over Jerusalem, which initiated the judgment of that city in the days of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. This cross-reference is all the more significant, because as we discussed in the article on Revelation chapter 7, the "man dressed in linen" is the One who sealed the believers in Jerusalem with a mark on their foreheads for protection in Ezekiel chapter 9. He sealed the believers for protection before He initiated the judgment by scattering coals of fire from God over Jerusalem in Ezekiel chapter 10. That judgment came through the Babylonians, who destroyed the city and the temple in 587/586 BC.
As we discussed in the article on Revelation chapter 7 (see pages 165-179 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" for more details), the evidence is very strong that the "man dressed in linen" of Ezekiel chapters 9 and 10 and of Daniel chapters 10 and 12 was God the Son, who frequently appeared in the Old Testament as the Angel of Yahweh. And as we discussed in the article on Revelation chapter 7, I have to favor the viewpoint that it is God the Son who seals the end-time remnant of Israel on their foreheads for protection in that chapter. He seals them before He initiates the end-time judgment of the world and the seven angels begin to sound their trumpets.
Having finished the excerpt, we'll continue with Rev. 8:6.
(6) And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. [[Chapter 2 of "The Mid-Week Rapture" is titled "Chronological Chart for Daniel's 70th Week with Explanatory Notes." The foldout Chronological Chart itself is located in the back of the book; I recommend the reader look at the chart. The first five trumpets (Rev. 8:7-9:11) are briefly discussed under number 6 on page 13 of the book. The sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:13-21) is discussed under number 8 on page 14. Also see number 9, which is closely related to the sixth trumpet, on pages 14, 15. The seventh and last trumpet is briefly discussed under number 11 on page 15. Also see numbers 10, 12, and 13, which are closely related to the seventh trumpet, on pages 15, 16. Some may want to read on through number 21 to get a further overview of what will happen after the seventh trumpet sounds in the middle of Daniel's 70th week.]] (7) The first sounded [the first angel sounded his trumpet], and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees [cf. Rev. 7:1] were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. [[Revelation 11:6 speaks of rain not falling during the three and one-half year ministry of the two witnesses/prophets, which will cover the first half of Daniel's 70th week. Drought conditions could help explain why the fire of the first trumpet causes such extensive damage.
There's some similarity between the events of the first trumpet and the events of the seventh plague of hail at the time of the exodus (Ex. 9:13-35). Under the seventh plague in Egypt, however, there was no mention of "blood" being thrown to the earth, and there was no mention of damage being caused by the fire that accompanied the hail. (The fire mentioned in Ex. 9:23, 24 apparently referred to lightning.)
Hail caused the damage in Egypt, but here under the first trumpet the fire thrown to the earth causes the only damage that is mentioned. The trees are more resistant to damage by fire than the far-less-substantial grass, which undoubtedly includes essential grains like wheat, oats, and barley. I assume we are to think of the fire causing damage to cities, homes, commercial buildings, etc. as part of what it means for a third of the earth to be burned up. Some say that a third of the trees and all the green grass within a third of the earth will be burned up, but this verse seems to say that a third of the trees and all the green grass of the earth will be burned up.
It is quite possible that only a relatively small part of the earth will be directly involved in the events of the sounding of the first five trumpets, that part of the world centered in the revived Roman Empire. (We'll get into some details when we discuss the individual trumpets.) Even if that proves to be true, the entire world will certainly be very much aware of and affected by what is happening. Anyway, even though there's some uncertainty about some of the details for the first five trumpets, we shouldn't have any doubt regarding the fulfillment of these prophesied warning judgments when they finally fall on the earth.
For one thing, there will be confirming signs, including such things as the seven-year covenant/treaty of Dan. 9:27; the ministry of the two witnesses/prophets of Rev. 11:3 (they may announce the sounding of the trumpets before they sound, even as Moses announced the plagues before they fell on Egypt, and/or they may identify these events as fulfilling the trumpet judgments after they sound, which will make these events all the more effective at getting the attention of the world); and the rebuilding of the temple. Furthermore, even if there is some room for doubt about whether the things that have happened fulfill the prophecy regarding the first trumpet, any such doubts should be erased when the second, third, and fourth trumpets follow in sequence.
When will the trumpets sound? Revelation chapters 11-13 show that the seventh and last trumpet will sound right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. The sixth trumpet will sound about the time of Antichrist's abomination of desolation, some thirty days before the middle of Daniel's 70th week (Dan. 12:11). The sixth trumpet will initiate the super-intense warfare of the short great tribulation. We are informed that the events associated with the fifth trumpet will last for five months. At the latest then, the fifth trumpet will sound about six months before the middle of Daniel's 70th week. The first four trumpets will all sound in sequence before the fifth trumpet sounds. I assume they will all sound during the first half of Daniel's 70th week. The first trumpet could sound as late as something like a month or two before the sounding of the fifth trumpet. I get the impression that once the first trumpet sounds the other trumpets will follow rather quickly.
The mention of a "third" twice in this verse is typical for the first six trumpets (Rev. 8:8, 9, 10, 11, 12; 9:15, 18). This "third" factor substantially lessens the severity of these warning judgments. (The judgment of the sixth trumpet is too severe to be labeled a warning judgment.) Another factor that lessens the severity of the warning judgment of the first trumpet is that the "grass" won't be permanently destroyed. See Rev. 9:4; the same Greek noun ("chortos") for "grass" is used in Rev. 8:7 and 9:4. (I had a footnote here, See Matt. 13:26, where the NASB translated this noun as "wheat," and Mark 4:28, where the NASB translated this noun as "blade," clearly speaking of grass that yields a harvest for food.) The fact that the grass has had time to grow back after the burning under the first trumpet (assuming that this is the way to explain the presence of grass in Rev. 9:4) would tend to argue for more than a month between the sounding of the first trumpet and the sounding of the fifth trumpet.
Under the seventh plague in Egypt (as with the plagues of Egypt in general), the people of God were not touched. I expect a similar protection for God's people during the events of the seven trumpets. The judgments of the trumpets aren't aimed at God's people. They are, in fact, coming (in part) in answer to the prayers of His people (cf. Rev. 5:8; 6:9-11; 8:3-5; and 9:13, 20, 21). Revelation 9:4, which deals with the fifth trumpet, specifically mentions that the (demonic) locusts will not be permitted to touch God's people.
How many people will die under the first trumpet? We're not told that any will die under this trumpet, but we would tend to expect that some will die (cf. Ex. 9:19-21, 25). Anyway, I assume that the loss of life will be relatively limited under the first three trumpets, and it doesn't seem that any will die under the fourth or fifth trumpets. This will change drastically under the sixth trumpet.]] (8) The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea [Note the sea in Rev. 7:1. It makes a very big difference what "the sea" means here. Some think of the oceans of the earth; I favor the much-less-severe view that the Mediterranean Sea is meant. "Something like a great mountain burning with fire" could be a meteor; it could be some sort of nuclear device; or it could be something obviously supernatural.]; and a third of the sea became blood [Compare Ex. 7:17-25; Rev. 11:6; and 16:3-7. This need not be literal blood, and its origin could be supernatural.], (9) and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died [contrast Rev. 16:3]; and a third of the ships were destroyed [cf. Isa. 2:16]. [The "third" factor goes with the first six trumpet judgments, as noted under Rev. 8:7. It seems clear that a substantial number of people will die under this catastrophe, but it will undoubtedly be a relatively small number (numbering in the thousands, or tens of thousands?) when you think in terms of God's end-time day of judgment.] (10) The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. [Because of the following words regarding a third of the waters becoming wormwood, we should apparently think of the star falling on "a third" of the "springs of waters" too (as with the rivers).] (11) The name of the star is called Wormwood [[This great star which falls from heaven could involve an evil angel. Stars are sometimes used in the book of Revelation to represent angels, good and evil angels (Rev. 1:20; 9:1, 2; and 12:4, 7-9), and the fact that this star has a name could fit that viewpoint. Note the use of the word "wormwood" later in this verse, and note the words "made bitter." The BAGD Greek Lexicon, under the Greek noun translated Wormwood/wormwood ("apsinthos"), points out that wormwood "[contains] a very bitter substance."]]; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter. [See Jer. 9:15; 23:15. The bitterness (which here clearly includes poisonous qualities) could be caused by material coming from this falling star, or it could be entirely supernatural. "Many" will die under the sounding of the third trumpet, but, again, the number will probably be relatively small when considered in the context of judgment day.]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 8, 9 in Part 2, starting with Rev. 8:12.
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