Let’s start with a quick recap of the four main steps in the Inductive Method of Bible study:
- Pray – the Spirit is our Teacher and Guide.
- Observe – only looking at what the text says – do not jump to any conclusions here.
- Interpretation – ask about the meaning to those to whom the book was originally written. Here we ask why questions; we do not ask about ourselves or our society in this step.
- Application – application is the goal of Bible study, leading to transformed lives and societies, but it is the last step in the method. Jumping to application prematurely can lead to incorrect doctrine.
Bear these steps in mind as we get into the text.
Try getting into the method a little for yourself:
- Pray. Ask God to open greater understanding of Revelation’s message to the original readers, and the application for your life today.
- Observe. Choose a coloured pencil and draw a line under the commencement of each of the 7 trumpets. See if you can find the Intermission of the “Act” and mark its commencement, too.
- Interpretation. Consider as you read the Act: Are these final judgement (or some of them)? What is the purpose of the judgements of the trumpets?
Division 1 = creation’s view
Act I looked at man judging man; now looking at creation judging man.
Act II The 7 Trumpets; Revelation 8:2-11:18
From Revelation 8:3, we see this vision taking place at the altar, and that the angel has a golden censer. In 8:4 we see that the censer is offering up incense to God with the prayers of the saints. Again, we see how comforting this would be for the original readers – the prayers of the saints rise before God as a fragrant offering, even as God‘s fiery judgements are about to descend on the Church’s foes. What an amazing encouragement to pray during times of injustice and persecution! God hears our cries and He is storing up justice against the persecutors of His people.
In Revelation 8:6 we see that 7 angels now prepare to blow 7 trumpets. Remember that the number 7 is God’s number of perfection and completion. Meanwhile, trumpets in the Old Testament were used for the announcement of war. We know what is about to happen -> judgement and war are coming.
You will see that the 7 trumpets link to creation judging man. The first four are connected together and all feature an aspect of creation; for example, trees, grass, the sea etc. These could be literal future events, or could be referring to natural disasters occurring on our earth throughout the church age.
The question from “Try getting into the method”: are these complete, final judgement?
No. These creation judgements talk about the destruction of 1/3.
So then what is their purpose (see also Revelation 9:20-21)?
They are a call for REPENTANCE! We see this throughout the prophet books of the Old Testament when, in His great love and mercy, God constantly calls Israel and Judah to repent of their sins. God’s heart is always that people will turn and be saved. This needs to be our heart, too. Jesus calls us to bless those who persecute us. We are to continue in intercession and evangelism for those who are turned from God.
The last three trumpets consist of three proclaimed woes and all link to man’s life with pain, death, and hell. Woe in the Old Testament is always linked to a warning of God’s coming judgement. So again, God is using these judgements to call sinners to repentance.
You’ll also notice that the 7 trumpets use language linking the original readers mind’s back to the plagues of Egypt – God’s judgement on the enemies of His people. The Egyptian plagues were also creation plagues of natural disasters.
In the 5th trumpet (9:1-12) we have some funky locust-type creatures. Good literary context from the Old Testament is Joel 1-2. There are different opinions regarding the locusts and what they are. Popular interpretations include:
- Actual funky locusts (many believe they are literal)
- Demons, as they come from the pit (what I believe to be most likely)
- Literal army of the anti-Christ
The big question: Should these judgements cause fear in the hearts of the original reader? Read Revelation 9:4.
They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
The original readers would not fear these locusts – they are sealed in Christ, just as we are! Ephesians 1 tells us that believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit and our position is above everything as we rest seated with Christ; do not fear. The book of Revelation should bring COMFORT to God’s people.
We see also in this trumpet that the locusts have the angel of the bottomless pit as their king.
Apollyon literally means “destroyer”
Abaddon is the Hebrew word for “destruction”
So one translation is personified, whilst the other is conceptual. Abaddon/Apollyon is often interpreted as another name for Satan; however, Scripture seems to distinguish the two. Abaddon/Apollyon is likely one of Satan’s underlings, a destroying demon and one of the “rulers,” “authorities,” and “powers” mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.
What is the Bottomless pit?
- Apollyon and the locusts come out of it in this chapter.
- The beast who makes war against the two witnesses in Revelation 11:7-8 comes out of it.
- At the beginning of the millennial kingdom Satan is bound in it (Revelation 20:1-3).
It may be associated with a place called Tartarus. This Greek word is translated as “hell” and is used only once in Scripture, in 2 Peter 2:4. It refers to the place where “angels who sinned” are reserved in chains of darkness for judgement. If Tartarus is the same as the Abyss, then the inhabitants of the bottomless pit are the same angels who sinned and left their first habitation.
Then the 6th trumpet (9:13-21) brings 200,000,000 cavalry. Revelation 9:14 tells us they are coming from the great river Euphrates, which is in the middle of modern-day Iraq. This was the edge of the Roman Empire. The population of Rome at this time (also the largest city in their known world at this time) was 1 million. The cavalry of 200 million was bigger than the earth’s entire population at this time. We see that they do not kill with a frontal attack but be fire, smoke and sulphur.
There are two main views: (1) Anti-Christ battle to conquer the world (literal view); or (2) Spiritual warfare (amilleniumist) -> e.g. by drugs, suicide etc. Regardless, remember that God is in control of this. He is the One that released the four angels, and He is the One who had bound them for the specific time of their release.
Again we have a pause in the release of the trumpets for an intermission. In this intermission:
- (10:4) John is told to seal up the 7 thunders
This is a bit like Paul being taken up to 3rd heaven, but isn’t allowed to say what he saw. Try not to speculate; it is probably for our good John didn’t write it down.
- (10:8-11) Then John is given a scroll to eat that tastes sweet but becomes bitter
There is a link here with Ezekiel 3, who also had to eat a bitter-sweet scroll. The Gospel is also often described as bitter sweet news -> bitter to those who reject Him and sweet, sweet news to those who receive Him.
- (11:1-2)The Temple, but not its courts, is measured
God did the exact same thing in Zachariah 2:1 where the measuring of Jerusalem was a demonstration of God’s protection over His people. Note that He is measuring inside, but not the courts. In the physical temple, the courts were for Gentiles, so here it is representing unbelievers. The implication? God is saying: “I am protecting my people”.
- During this time of protection, we see that unbelievers are given free reign outside the Temple, in the city. But the time they are allowed is set -> 42 months which = 3 ½ years. And believers are protected, they are safe in God – again, no fear. And then (11:3-13), after the 42 months, the 2 witnesses come to earth and prophesy for 1,260 days, which is also = 3 ½ years
Symbolically 3 ½ = part of time but add together = 7, which = perfect amount of time, God’s perfect time
Many interpretations for this period of two 3 ½ years. One interpretation = church time -> Age of Tension. The Age of Tension is where we live now. It is the time between Christ’s first coming and His second coming.
Two main interpretations for the two witnesses: (1) Literal witnesses. Actual people who demonstrate amazing amounts of power and testifying to God. Favoured interpretations are Moses (plagues) and Elijah (shutting the sky). (2) Lampstands earlier = church, so referring to the church. Witnesses amongst lampstands and olive trees are also seen in Zachariah 4.
- Come back to the big picture of this intermission:
The saints are protected in the Temple of God. The two witnesses, the Church, testify and then are martyred. Yet they only die for 3 ½ days = small amount of time. Then God’s very breath resurrects them to life and they go up to heaven to God.
7,000 unbelievers are killed in God’s judgement of the city = God’s perfect number. And then the remainder give GLORY to GOD; the remnant come to God!This is an encouragement towards evangelism in the face of persecution, and even martyrdom! We need to accept the idea that we will be hated by the world, but by witnessing we can save some. Are we witnessing? Are we experiencing God’s power as we witness?
What happens with the blowing of the 7th trumpet? Judgement for unbelievers, reward for God’s people, and complete rulership of Christ.
What is our response as saints?
This brings us to the end of Man’s view of judgement
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23)
Next post we will get into the Third “Act” of Revelation as the drama continues to unfold.