Revelation #16 Revelation 8:1-13 End Times Emotional Trauma


Revelation #16  Revelation 8:1-13 End Times Emotional Trauma

The time of tribulation upon the Earth is unfolding.  The Lamb has opened 6 of the 7 seals on the scroll of destiny.  The 7th awaits us in Chapter 8.  The 7th seal depicts the first part of the end, it is the preamble to the finale.

Also in Chapter 8, John tells us of his vision of the first 4 Trumpets of God. One of our principles of interpretation calls for us to think very differently about what we are reading. We read chronologically.  That means the first thing we read is the first thing that happens, and the second, obviously, is the second thing that happens.  What we have suggested is that the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls are intensifications of the same event.  For example, the first seal is opened and things are bad, the first Trumpet sounds and the bad of the first seal gets intense, the Bowl is poured and the bad, intense event becomes catastrophic. [This is a literary device known as recapitulation or parallelism which is a common feature of apocalyptic literature.] Now you are free to disregard this idea.  You can read the sequence of events chronologically.  You can interpret the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls as sequential. For our study, we will proceed with an understanding that these are parallel descriptions of the same period rather than a strict sequence of events (Eller, p. 83). We are to understand the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls as different perspectives of the same overarching reality. What we get is a picture of trauma that can speak emotionally to every generation.  Consider the painting of Picasso that depicts the aftermath of a bombing in the city of Guernica:

The painting communicates the trauma and suffering the people endured (Eller, p. 88 & Mounce, p.178).  This is an emotional appeal that communicates what happened. John is also painting a picture of trauma, free from historical reference, and thus the message becomes universally applicable to every generation.

If that wasn’t enough to wrap your head around, let’s read about the opening of the 7th Seal.

Revelation 8:1 (MSG)

When the Lamb ripped off the seventh seal, Heaven fell quiet—complete silence for about half an hour.


With this 7th event, we have our introduction to God’s end game. The throne room was filled with lightning and thunder, singing and worship by the multitude, and now silence. “There is an old Jewish tradition that says God’s original creation of the universe was preceded by a period of complete silence” (Eller, pp. 104-105).  Think of silence as a state of expectancy, creating suspense.  We’re at the edge of our seats.


Revelation 8:2-5 (MSG)

 I saw the Seven Angels who are always in readiness before God handed seven trumpets. 3 Then another Angel, carrying a gold censer, came and stood at the Altar. He was given a great quantity of incense so that he could offer up the prayers of all the holy people of God on the Golden Altar before the Throne. 4 Smoke billowed up from the incense-laced prayers of the holy ones, rose before God from the hand of the Angel.

5 Then the Angel filled the censer with fire from the Altar and heaved it to earth. It set off thunders, voices, lightnings, and an earthquake.

During this silence, 7 angels are presented with the trumpets of God.  Within the Jewish tradition, seven archangels are named:  Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Saraqael, and Remiel (Tobit 12:1, 5). Each archangel has a primary function assigned to them. Gabriel is the messenger of God.  Michael is the defender of the Israel and the Jewish people.  Raphael is the healer of the sick and wounded.  Uriel oversees the world and its inhabitants.  Raguel brings justice and vengeance, this angel is the punisher of the wicked. Saraqael guides the souls into the afterlife. Remiel is the overseer of the souls who will rise from the dead and is associated with divine justice. All are agents of God’s will. It could be that John has these specific angelic beings in mind as he writes.


A golden censer was used during the time of Jewish Temple worship to represent the prayers of the people.  The prayers of the saints are like incense.  Those prayers are the laments of the people who are suffering the persecution that the world can dish out like what has befallen the congregations John writes to. The Psalms are full of cries for justice (Psalms 10, 35, 69, 72, 82. 94, and 103 are examples) and liberation (Psalms 18, 69, 74, 80, 86, and 102 are examples).  These are prayers for help, for deliverance, and salvation, prayers that cry out for righteousness for all to be set right, and for God’s will to be done on Earth as it is in heaven. These prayers for freedom and liberation from oppression, suffering, and sin are about to be answered.

To these prayers fire from the altar is added.  In Judaism, altar fire symbolizes covenant and sacrifice, purification and atonement, light and hope.  The cries of the people and the will of God are heaved to the earth. God’s answer to the prayers of the saints comes with thunders, voices, lightning, and earthquakes. My friends your prayers are prayers heard, and prayers heard are prayers answered (Ladd, p. 126).  One prayer stands out, it’s the prayers of those under the altar, the martyrs:  How long O Lord?  The waiting time is over. Trumpets symbolize God’s intervention.

Answering the prayers of the saints, keeping with His righteousness and His desire that everyone enter into a right relationship with Him, the trumpets sound.  The first four trumpets bring ecological disaster to the Earth, destroying a third of the vegetation, a third of the sea, a third of the freshwater, and a third of celestial light.

Revelation 8:6-12 (MSG)

 The Seven Angels with the trumpets got ready to blow them. At the first trumpet blast, hail and fire mixed with blood were dumped on earth. A third of the earth was scorched, a third of the trees, and every blade of green grass—burned to a crisp.

8 The second Angel trumpeted. Something like a huge mountain blazing with fire was flung into the sea. A third of the sea turned to blood, a third of the living sea creatures died, and a third of the ships sank.

10 The third Angel trumpeted. A huge Star, blazing like a torch, fell from Heaven, wiping out a third of the rivers and a third of the springs. The Star's name was Wormwood. A third of the water turned bitter, and many people died from the poisoned water.

12 The fourth Angel trumpeted. A third of the sun, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars were hit, blacked out by a third, both day and night in one-third blackout.

Wormwood is mentioned in Deuteronomy (also Jeremiah 9:15, 23:25).

You got an eyeful of their obscenities, their wood and stone, silver and gold junk-gods. Don't let down your guard lest even now, today, someone—man or woman, clan or tribe—gets sidetracked from God, our God, and gets involved with the no-gods of the nations; lest some poisonous weed sprout and spread among you, a person who hears the words of the Covenant-oath but exempts himself, thinking, "I'll live just the way I please, thank you," and ends up ruining life for everybody.

Deut 29:17-19 (MSG)


The poisonous weed is wormwood. For the person who has rejected God, worshiped the idols of the world, and made their ego Lord, they drink the waters of the world and their fate is sealed.  They die. Bitter waters are the antithesis of living waters. The world offers bitter waters to drink, only Jesus is the well for living water (John 7:37-39).


That the destruction is limited is yet another indication that God is using these intense times to wake people to their need for Him. The intensity of the trauma caused by the first 4 trumpets can be likened to the watchman in Ezekiel 33, who blows his trumpet as a warning of coming danger.  The danger is certainly coming.

Revelation 8:13

I looked hard; I heard a lone eagle, flying through Middle-Heaven, crying out ominously, "Doom! Doom! Doom to everyone left on earth! There are three more Angels about to blow their trumpets. Doom is on its way!"


Middle-heaven in ancient cosmology is the realm between earth and the highest heaven.  It is in the middle heaven according to the ancients that the stars and planets revolve around the earth.  That eagle, some scholars prefer the translation to be a vulture.  A Vulture certainly communicates the proper atmosphere for what is coming. Three trumpets are remaining, Doom, Doom, and Doom are on their way.

This chapter certainly is a call to repentance. Things are bad but they are about to get much worse.  Get right with God now so that you can endure and overcome.  Acknowledge that you need God, the forgiveness of your sin, and a reconciliation of your relationship to Him.  Believe that Jesus’ atonement makes it possible for that forgiveness and reconciliation.  Commit yourself to living the life of a disciple bending your knee to the Lordship of Christ.  This is your act of repentance.  Ask God to accept your faith.  Now is the time to make your decision.

For the faithful, the chapter informs that you will need to cultivate a strong faith, maintain moral integrity, and be resilient in the face of the coming adversity, prepare yourself now spiritually. If not you just might get blown away by the winds that are coming. When the rough times become intense times, remember that you have the hope of ultimate victory.

Take heart. Your prayers for justice are heard.  We like the martyrs must wait for the answer. Your prayers might even hasten the second coming as you pray for God’s Kingdom to be consummated upon the Earth.


Further thoughts---

The interpretation suggested by Vernard Eller, viewing the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls in the Book of Revelation as parallel descriptions of the same periods rather than a strict sequence of events, reflects a particular approach to understanding the apocalyptic imagery in the text. This perspective is associated with a literary device known as recapitulation or parallelism, which is a common feature in apocalyptic literature.

Here are some potential significances and implications of this interpretive stance:

  1. Symbolic and Theological Emphasis:
    • This interpretation allows for a symbolic reading of the text, emphasizing the theological and symbolic significance of the events described in the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls. Each set of images may convey different aspects or perspectives of the same overarching reality.
  1. Cyclical Nature of Judgment:
    • It suggests a cyclical or repetitive nature to the judgments described in Revelation. Rather than a linear progression, where one set of events leads directly to the next, it proposes that the visions provide different snapshots or angles on the ongoing spiritual struggle and divine judgment throughout history.
  1. Amplification of Themes:
    • The idea of intensification implies that each series of judgments (Seals, Trumpets, Bowls) may represent an amplification or deepening of certain themes rather than introducing entirely new events. This could underscore the increasing severity and intensity of divine intervention or judgment.
  1. Avoiding Strict Predictive Chronology:
    • This interpretive stance challenges a strict predictive chronology often associated with apocalyptic literature. Instead of trying to predict specific future events in a linear fashion, it encourages readers to focus on the broader theological messages and lessons embedded in the symbolism.
  1. Theological Unity:
    • By viewing the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls as parallel descriptions, the interpretation may highlight the theological unity of the narrative. The emphasis is on the overarching message rather than precise details of a chronological sequence.
  1. Interconnectedness of Events:
    • It underscores the interconnectedness of events and themes throughout history. Instead of isolating each set of judgments as discrete events, this interpretation encourages readers to see the ongoing interplay of spiritual forces and divine actions.

It's important to note that interpretations of the Book of Revelation vary widely among scholars and theologians. Different readers may approach the text with different theological frameworks and perspectives, leading to diverse understandings of its symbolism and meaning.

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