When we read in the Book of Revelation about the opening of the seven seals, the sounding of the seven trumpets, the pouring out of the vials—or bowls; these, in our present age, are strong, vivid warnings of what wrath lies ahead. But shortly beyond present time, these are no longer future; these prophesies are being fulfilled “right now” during the Tribulation period. As each trumpet is sounded, tragedies progressively get worse and worse.
Beginning where Revelation chapter 6 left off, the seventh seal probably contains the seven trumpets. When that seventh seal is opened, the tribulation situation will become much more serious. This fact is pointed out in the first verse of chapter 8. Of course the timing of each action is given in past tense since John the apostle is writing about the vision the Lord had given him:
When He [the Savior] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (Revelation 8:1)
The Lamb opens the seventh seal, and then silence is held for about half an hour to **indicate the beginning of these further series of judgments**—beyond what the seals revealed. The first four trumpets will be blasted in chapter 8.
Upon the seventh seal being opened, a one-half hour of silence is broken when another angel throws a smoking, golden censor to earth. The censor is filled with smoke from burning incense which rises to God, along with prayers of the saints.
**Incense is often an illustration of prayer (Revelation 5:8). The coming trumpet judgments may be God’s response to the prayers of the saints in 6:10—a cry for revenge against the enemies of Christ (Psalm 94:1**; Deuteronomy 32:35; **Romans 12:19). The throwing of the censer to earth represents the coming judgment of the earth. Christ will use the angels to sound the trumpets. The blast of each trumpet symbolizes the execution of God’s judgment**. (2 Samuel 22:8-10).
When the first angel sounds **the first trumpet it brings literal fire & hail, and causes the destruction of much of the vegetation on earth. Famine & shortage of oxygen will result**. (Ezekiel 38:22).
The sounding of **the second trumpet turns one third of the sea into blood & one third of the sea creatures and ships will be destroyed**. Commerce will suffer.
**The third trumpet makes one third of the earth’s fresh water turn bitter causing widespread thirst & death. The wormwood spoken of in Revelation 8:11 literally makes the water undrinkable** (Deuteronomy 30:18-20). Prolonged sustainability of life on the earth’s land will end. Then, with the next trumpet, the heavens are disfigured:
Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night. (Revelation 8:12)
The last three trumpets will bring such severity that we go to chapter 9 for trumpets five and six, but trumpet number seven will be reserved until Revelation 11:15. **Here in 8:13 we find that these last three are so glaring that there is a three-fold woe expressed to initially describe them**. A single woe can be defined as sadness, despair, misery, distress, affliction, mournfulness…all due to a catastrophic calamity. A triple woe must be exceedingly miserable.
The fifth trumpet in Revelation 9:1-12 blasts a star (an angel) from heaven to earth that has been given the key to the bottomless pit (Hādēs—the abyss in Greek—the dwelling place of demons). The emitted smoke darkens the sun and air, (Joel 2:1-2, 10-11; Matthew 24:29), locusts come out of the pit having the power of scorpions to torment, but not kill the unbelievers on the earth for 5 months. However, the 144,000 men of Israel who have the seal of God on their foreheads (from Revelation 7:2-4) are not to be harmed. In Revelation 9:6 [much like Revelation 6:15-17) the unbelievers wanted to hide and even choose death to escape the torment (Jeremiah 8:3). The king of those in the bottomless pit is named Abaddon (Destruction) in Hebrew, but Apollyon (Destroyer) in Greek. This would be Satan. Where 9:7 says like the faces of men, it implies they were creatures of intelligence. Hair like women’s suggests they were attractive & seductive. Lion-like teeth connotes they were ferocious & cruel. The iron breastplates made them difficult to attack and destroy. Their noisy wings created a terrifying and demoralizing atmosphere. The tails like scorpions equipped them to torture both physically and mentally. The first of two woes is past. The worst is yet to come. The judgments increase in intensity:
Revelation 9:13-19 tells us that the sixth trumpet blasts, and God commands the sixth angel to release the four angels who are bound on the earth at the River Euphrates (Revelation 16:12-14). These four angels will be released to kill one third of remaining mankind with the use of three plagues from an army—the Lord’s army—of two hundred million horsemen. The horses—not the riders—issue the three plagues: fire, smoke, and brimstone to kill the one third of mankind. Not only do the horses kill with their mouths, but they also wound with their serpent-like tails. This is the power of our God!
20But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. 21And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21)
A parenthesis that began with chapter 10 ends here. The third woe is the seventh trumpet which comes next in Revelation 11:15:
**The seventh trumpet brings closer the Millennial kingdom of Christ. The seven vials or bowls which will come in Revelation 16 are probably contained in the judgment of the seventh trumpet (just as the seven trumpets were contained in the seventh seal). They will occur in a very brief period of time at the end of the Great Tribulation. The Second Coming of Christ, while a great blessing for believers, will be God’s most severe judgment of the earth. The kingdoms of this world will be completely overthrown by the coming kingdom of Christ (Revelation 19:11, 20-21; Daniel 2:34-35a, 44), who will reign for ever and ever (Daniel 7:13a-14b, 27)**.
**Quotations and paraphrased quotations marked **.. quoted text ** taken from The King James Study Bible. Copyright © 1988 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.