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Revelation 8

Chapter 8

v. 1: I believe the silence of heaven communicates the weightiness of the events that follow by mingling tension and expectation with reverent awe.  However, I do not understand the symbolism behind the length of time (half an hour) that this silence lasts.

v. 2: I believe only one group of seven angels has been cropping up throughout the Revelation: that group is in 1:4, 1:20, and 4:5.

v. 3: The altar here is the bronze altar, the same as the altar of 6:9.  While at this altar, the angel “was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints.”  The angel takes the incense and prayers and burns these before God on the golden altar.  This golden altar is different from the bronze altar where the angel gathered the incense and prayers.  It is the golden altar of incense, which belonged (along with the ark of the covenant) to the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and temple.[1] The image of the angel offering incense and prayers on this heavenly golden altar, therefore, alludes to the image of a high priest doing the same on the earthly golden altar in the presence of the ark of the covenant.  By analogy, then, the ark of the covenant (also called The Mercy Seat of God) is the earthly representation of God’s heavenly throne.

v. 5: I believe a chronological narrative could be put together at this point.[2]

God puts his seal on the foreheads of his people who are still living on earth and destined to become martyrs under the reign of Beast I (7:1-3).  The symbolic number of those sealed is 144,000 (7:4-8).  The angel with the golden censor receives incense and prayers from the martyred saints under the bronze altar (8:3, 6:9-10[3]).  He takes these prayers and incense and offers them on the golden altar of incense before the throne of God (8:3).  The smoke of the incense rises before God, and he hears the prayers of his martyred saints (8:4).  In their prayers, the martyrs ask God when he will avenge their blood (6:10).  God comforts and honors the martyrs, telling them that their blood will be avenged (i.e., “the great day of God the Almighty”[4] will come) after the proper number of Christians destined for martyrdom has been reached (6:11). Then the cherubim unleash each of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (6:1-8), who have been held in check until now so that other angels could have enough time to place the seal of God on the Christians living on earth (7:1-3).     After this, the angel with the golden censor takes fire from the bronze altar where the martyrs are, fills his censor with it, and hurls it to the earth (8:5).  This act is an ominous prelude to the great day of God the Almighty, causing, among other things, a great earthquake (8:5).  Then “the great day of God the Almighty” (16:14)[5] itself begins.

Note the parallels between the 7 trumpets and the 7 bowls:

1st Trumpet: “[T]here came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up” (8:7).

1st Bowl:  The angel “poured his bowl on the earth, and a foul and painful sore came on those who had the mark of the beast…” (16:2).

2nd Trumpet: “[S]omething like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea.  A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed” (8:8).

2nd Bowl: The angel “poured his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing in the sea died” (16:3).

3rd Trumpet: “[A] great star fell from heaven…and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.  A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter” (8:10).

3rd Bowl:  The angel “poured his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood” (16:4).

4th Trumpet:  “[A] third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light was darkened; a third of the day was kept from shining, and likewise the night”  (8:12).

4th Bowl: The angel “poured his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire…but they cursed the name of God…and they did not repent…” (16:8).

5th Trumpet:  John sees “a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke…and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke.  Then from the smoke came locusts….  They were told not to damage the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (9:1-4).

5th Bowl: The angel “poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony, and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent…” (16:10-11).

6th Trumpet: John heard “a voice from the four horns of the golden altar…saying, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’  So the four angels were released, who had been held ready…to kill a third of humankind” (9:13-15).

6th Bowl:  The angel “poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east.  And I saw three foul spirits like frogs coming from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet.  These are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.  And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon” (16:12-14,16).

7th Trumpet: “[T]here were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord….The nations raged, but your wrath has come, and the time for Judging the dead, for rewarding your servants…and for destroying those who destroy the earth [has come].’  Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple, and there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and heavy hail” (11:15, 18-19).

7th Bowl:  The angel “poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’  And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake, such as had not occurred since people were upon the earth….  The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell.  God remembered great Babylon and gave her the wine cup of the fury of his wrath.  And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; and huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, dropped from heaven on people, until they cursed God…” (16:17-21).

I have wondered if these parallels mean that the seven bowls and the seven trumpets signify the same things.  I am not sure.  One thing that makes me pause is the fact that the events designated by the trumpets only affect 1/3 of the objects concerned, whereas those events designated by the equivalent bowls often affect all of the objects concerned.  Apparently, Isaac Newton also noted the parallels between the trumpets and the bowls, although his comments do little to settle my opinion one way or another.  In his notes on Revelation he too presented the seven bowls and seven trumpets side by side to illuminate their similarities, but he seems to have been conflicted as to their interpretation.  I got the following quotes from  his manuscript on display online from the Jewish National and University Library: “Yet it is to be noted that notwithstanding this external resemblance of this [the first] trumpet and vial, their interpretation is something different.”  Compare that quotation with this: “The seven Vials of wrath described in Chapter 15 and 16 are the same with the Plagues or woes of the seven Trumpets in Chapter 8,9,10,11” (Newton).

v. 6: While some of the events symbolized by the visions of the seven seals may be arranged chronologically in the order that the seals are opened, I do not believe that all of the events symbolized by the seals can be thus arranged.  In other words, I do not believe that the events symbolized by the visions of one seal necessarily precede those symbolized by the visions of the next.[6] My reasons for this are in chapter seven.  For example, 7:3 describes the visions of the 6th seal.  In that verse, an angel tells four other angels that they are not to damage the earth until the 144,000 have been marked with the seal of God on their foreheads.  However, since these four angels are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (whose damaging effects are described in the first four seals) then this event (the marking of the 144,000) in the sixth seal must have happened before the events of the first four seals.  See also notes on 7:9-17, which describe how another vision in the sixth seal seems to symbolize events after those symbolized in the seventh seal.   Thus, although the seven trumpets (and seven bowls) appear with the opening of the seventh seal, I believe that the events of these trumpets and bowls are described in earlier seals.


[1] See note on Hebrews 9:4.

[2] See also 6:2 notes.

[3] I believe the saints in 8:3 are synonymous with the martyred saints of 6:9 because the prayers of the saints in 8:3 are mentioned in connection with “the [bronze] altar” where sacrifices were made and under which the martyred saints are in 6:9.

[4] For a discussion of this day, see notes at 20:4.

[5] For a discussion of this day, see notes at 20:4.

[6] As it turns out, I do actually believe that the events of the first four seals are a unit and  follow one another, but those of the last three do not.

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8 Responses to “Revelation 8”

  1. […] Of these three scenarios, one and three seem most likely, and of these two, number one seems more likely still, due in large part to the fact that it makes the seventh message longer.  See notes on the seventh seal in chapter 8. […]

  2. […] Of these three scenarios, one and three seem most likely, and of these two, number one seems more likely still, due in large part to the fact that it makes the seventh message longer.  See notes on the seventh seal in chapter 8. […]

  3. […] [3] See also note on 8:5. […]

  4. […] [3] See also note on 8:5. […]

  5. […] belonged (along with the ark of the covenant) to the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and temple.[1] The image of the angel offering incense and prayers on this heavenly golden altar, therefore, […]

  6. […] belonged (along with the ark of the covenant) to the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and temple.[1] The image of the angel offering incense and prayers on this heavenly golden altar, therefore, […]

  7. […] by the visions of one seal necessarily precede those symbolized by the visions of the next.[6] My reasons for this are in chapter seven.  For example, 7:3 describes the visions of the 6th […]

  8. […] by the visions of one seal necessarily precede those symbolized by the visions of the next.[6] My reasons for this are in chapter seven.  For example, 7:3 describes the visions of the 6th […]

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