Book of Revelation: Study 7 – the seven trumpets
Chapters 8 and 9: Christian praying targets Jerusalem
The patience of God
Trumpets of Old Testament times signalled a battle. God, being longsuffering and slow to anger, delays the war.
The prayers of the saints (8:3-5; cf, 9-13)
How long before you avenge our blood? the martyred had prayed (6:10). Now (8:5) comes an immediate answer.
The pattern of judgments – seven trumpets
The seventh seal (8:1) did not execute any event on earth but only disclosed the seven trumpets (cf. on the seventh day’s journey around Jericho with Joshua Israel marched round seven more times!)
The pattern of the trumpets is identical to the sequence of the seals: No’s 1-4 are of a general nature; No 5 probes beyond the external troubles to the inner character of men. No’s 6-7, the final disaster and its outcome. The trumpets particularly resemble the plagues of Egypt which also resulted from the prayerful cries of God’s people (Exodus 3:7-8).
The final three woes (trumpets) warn ‘the inhabitants of the earth’ (8:13), the very people against whom the martyrs cried to God (6:10) – that is, those at home in the corrupt world’s system.
Trumpets 1-4 touch people’s environment
No 1 on the environment (cf. 7th plague, Exodus 9:24-25, hail);
No 2 on the economy (cf. 1st plague, Exodus 7:20ff, Nile to blood);
No 3 on natural resources (cf. 7:24, Nile; 8:7, 18-19, frogs and gnats; 14:23-24, Marah);Exodus 10:21ff, darkness);
No 4 on human vision (cf. 9th plague, Exodus 19:21ff, darkness)
Trumpets 5-6 touch humans themselves
The vulture in mid-heaven (8:13) prepares to devour the corrupt corpse of Christ-rejecting Judaism. History depicts the decade of the 60’s AD as filled with such crimes, terror and carnage.
No 5 on those unsealed (cf. chapter 7) – 9:1-12, the plague of locusts (cf. Exodus 10:12-20; Joel 1:2 – 2:11) is initiated by the fall of an angel (9:1). That angel is either a spirit-being or some huge priest or religious council that spread heresy to wreck the morals and well-being of society, those not sealed by God. In the siege of Jerusalem social and civil safeguards were utterly abandoned.
The ‘five months’ (9:5) identifies with the life of a locust (and can be paralleled by a specific period in the horrendous siege of Jerusalem).
No 6 (9:13-21) describe war from beyond the boundaries between Israel and Babylon/Assyria (Euphrates), and the apostasy which it induces (worshipping demons) – cf. Matthew 24:5, 10-12.
Chapters 10 and 11 – the end of the temple and city
- The Prelude (chapter 10)
Chapter 10 constitutes the prelude to the end of this sequence of judgments (chapter 11 – the seventh trumpet cf. the seventh seal). Therefore the scroll of chapter 5 has now shrunk (‘a little scroll … open in his hand’, 10:2).
This interlude between trumpets 6 (9:13) and 7 (11:15), before the measuring of the inner temple on earth, parallels the previous intermission between seals 6 and 7 (chapter 7) prior to the silence in the inner sanctuary of heaven (8:1).
According to 10:4 the seven thunderclaps (cf. Psalm 29) were unutterable (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:4). We are, in fact, spared the sordid details of massacre and carnage in the description of the end of chapter 11 because of this injunction.
Although this mystery (10:7, predicted in Daniel 9:26-27) has arrived at its completion (70 AD), not all God’s mysteries are thereby fulfilled (10:11). John experienced the sweetness of answered prayer, yet the bitter taste of the resultant judgement on the apostate Jews (10:8-10).
2, The end (chapter 11)
Measuring (11:1) here indicates imminent destruction (as in 2 Samuel 8:2; Amos 7:7-8; Habakkuk 3:6) rather than rebuilding (as in Zechariah 2:1 and Ezekiel 40ff) – namely the three-and-a-half year siege of Jerusalem by the Roman legions (11:2-3; cf. 12:14; 13:5), a period of time also associated with the oppression of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 7:25; 12:7). When salt has lost its flavour it gets trodden underfoot by men (Matthew 5:13).
David S. Clark suggest that the two witnesses are churches. It makes more sense to view these ‘two witnesses’ as a code-name and symbolic description of the New Testament church as represented by the only two churches of Asia Minor who were not sensure by the Lord, namely Smyrna the martyr church and Philadelphia (‘brotherly love’) who move prophetically in the power of the Spirit here like Moses and Elijah (11:5-6). Because of persecution throughout the Empire and especially in Jerusalem, like their Master himself, after three-and-a-half years of ministry they experience three days and nights of death-and-resurrection (11:7-11). The shaking of Judaism and its capital is associated with the enthronement in power of the church (11:12-13)!
No literalistic interpretation of 11:1-13 makes sense in terms of established New Testament doctrine from Matthew through Jude. The code drama of the entire 22 chapters of Revelation gathers up the previous motifs of Scripture. We dare not inject into the riddles we find here any new theology about two special individuals or any remnant company achieving immortality prior to the return of Jesus.
The seventh trumpet (11:14-18)
Whether the last thunderclap of judgement fell on the city with the second woe or the seventh trumpet (third woe) we do not know – the details were sealed up (10:4). All heaven now rejoices that the martyrs’ cries have been vindicated (11:18). The kingdom given to Christ at Pentecost is demonstrated at the AD 70 holocaust – now the gospel can triumph worldwide.
The language of verse 15-18 is terminal: it is as if two acetates overlap on the overhead projector, namely AD 70 and the ultimate return of Christ. At his return it will become completely proven that ‘the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord’, and we shall praise ‘the one who is and who was’ but no longer the one who is to come‘, because his wrath will then have come and the final judging and rewarding of living and dead will have taken place!
The last verse of the chapter is more probably the overture to the next section of the book (cf. chapter 4 – 5; 8:3-5; 15:5-8).