Notes on Revelation

Chapter 8

by Jeff Smelser

This document contains Greek words or phrases. Netscape 3.0 and Explorer 3.0 will properly display the Greek if you install SGreek, a font available from Silver Mountain Software.

SILENCE    contrast with 4:5,8,11; 5:12,13; 6:1,3,5,7,10; 7:10,12. This is the silence that falls upon those in awe of what is about to happen.


ADD IT UNTO THE PRAYERS OF THE SAINTS    In 5:8, the incense was said to be the prayers of the saints. Even in the O.T., David associated incense with prayer (Ps. 141:2). This is another example of an O.T. element of worship involving something tangible, but representing something spiritual. In John's visions, the paraphernalia of O.T. worship once again serves the same purpose.

TAKETH THE CENSER AND FILLED IT WITH THE FIRE OF THE ALTAR AND CAST IT UPON THE EARTH    Assuming this to be the same altar as that mentioned in 6:9, a connection is established between the martyred saints' plea for vengeance and the fiery judgment that is now hurled upon the earth. They had cried, "How long . . . dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (6:10). As the seven angels sound their trumpets and the scene of judgment progresses toward its climax, the response will come, "there shall be delay no longer" (10:6).

THUNDERS, AND VOICES AND LIGHTNINGS AND AN EARTHQUAKE    Not unlike the picture of God's coming against the enemies of his servant, David (Ps. 18:7, 13-14).

SEVEN TRUMPETS    Trumpets were used for various purposes including summoning the congregation and warning defenders to prepare for an expected attack. Here, however, the significance is best illustrated by Amos 3:6 and Joel 2:1, where the trumpet announces an imminent Day of the Lord, and the appropriate response is trembling.

THE FIRST SOUNDED    John is still seeing what is revealed with the opening of the seventh seal. The seven trumpets are to be thought of as announcing the events which unfold as a result of the opening of the seventh seal, rather than as subsequent to and distinct from the seventh seal. (See the chart on p. 11.)

    Many interpreters focus on trying to explain the symbolism of Revelation in terms of specific historical events, or specific natural phenomena. The following is an example:

"Blood-red rain is not unknown in nature; in the spring of 1901 the daily journals contained accounts of this phenomenon, which was then being witnessed in Italy and the South of Europe, the result, it was said, of the air being full of particles of the red sand from the Sahara." (Swete on Rev. 8:7)

While such explanations may occasionally be on the mark, generally it seems best to concede that apocalyptic symbolism often conveys an impression, whether of severe calamity or incomprehensible glory, and that only the impression is significant. To do otherwise is comparable to viewing an impressionistic painting up close and debating whether a particular brush stroke represents the froth of a wave's crest, the sunlight glistening on the water, or simply the color of the water itself.

THE THIRD PART OF THE EARTH    This was burnt up, as was the third part of the trees. Also, as the six trumpets sounded, a third of the sea became blood (8:8), a third of the sea creatures died (8:9), a third of the ships were destroyed (8:9), a star fell upon a third of the rivers resulting in the deaths of many men (8:10-11), a third of the sun, moon, and stars were smitten (8:12), and a third of men were killed (9:15).

When the seventh trumpet sounds, it is to announce the victory: "The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (11:15). At that point the judgment revealed within the scroll is completed. And yet only a third of the world and the things therein were destroyed. Contrast with this 2 Peter 3:10 which speaks of a day when "the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up." There, the whole world is destroyed. Here in Revelation, only a third part is destroyed. The judgment revealed to John is devastating, and even climactic; but it is not the judgment of which Peter wrote. It is not the end of time. The world would go on after the judgment described in the scroll had been accomplished.

A GREAT MOUNTAIN BURNING WITH FIRE WAS CAST INTO THE SEA    The precedent for the imagery is found in Jeremiah 51, where Babylon's fall is foretold. Babylon was described as a mountain which God would roll down from the crags and make a "burnt out mountain" (Jer. 51:25).

    Furthermore, it was said, "The sea has come up over Babylon; She has been engulfed with its tumultuous waves" (Jer. 51:42). As the first of the world empires described in Daniel 2 and 7, Babylon was a fitting symbol of the last of those empires. (Compare the use of David in Ezek. 37:24 to represent the Christ.)

THERE FELL FROM HEAVEN A GREAT STAR    The trumpet is sounded by

the third angel, but the imagery continues to hark back to God's judgment upon Babylon. In Is. 14:12-14, Babylon's powerful king was pictured as a star which would fall from heaven whither he had aspired to ascend.

WORMWOOD    associated with bitterness, and with poisoned food or water (Dt. 29:18). In prophesying of the captivity, Jeremiah spoke of God's intention to feed Israel "with wormwood and give then poisoned water to drink" because of their idolatry (Jer. 9:15, cf. 23:15).

THIRD PART    See the note on verse 7. This should not be viewed as a lesser calamity than that described in connection with the opening of the sixth seal (6:12). "Third part" is merely consistent with the numerology used throughout chapters 8 and nine.

AN EAGLE    The same word, a)eto/j, is used in Mt. 24:28 and Lk 17:37 where the reference is apparently to a vulture. However, here, most take it to mean an eagle. Dt. 28:49, Hosea 8:1 and Hab. 1:5 are examples of the use of the eagle in O.T. prophecy. The reading "angel" in the KJV is found in no extant Greek manuscript dated prior to the eleventh century.

WOE, WOE, WOE    Each of these woes corresponds to one of the trumpets yet to sound. This is the meaning of the phrase, "by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, who are yet to sound." The woes are for them that DWELL ON THE EARTH. These are identified as those "whose name hath not been written in the book of life" (17:8), and those upon whom judgement will come in vengeance for the blood of the saints (6:10). See also 3:10, 11:10, 13:8,12,14, and 17:2. The woes do not represent the sufferings of God's people, but God's judgement upon the worldly.

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