The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Revelation 8

Rev 8:1

Rev 8: From ritual of Day of Atonement (cp Psa 65:1; Hab 2:20). 1/2 hour = approx time High Priest spent in sanctuary. [He would put off his normal garments (including bells on the hem) and put on plain linen (Lev 16:4) before going into the tabernacle and making atonement, throwing incense on the altar, etc. He would change back in Lev 16:23. The incense in Rev 8:3,4 makes this allusion explicit.] Perhaps golden censer was used only on Day of Atonement. 7 trumpets -- integral part of this day! (v 6; 1Ch 15:24; 2Ch 29:25-28; see v 6n).

Overview: It appears that the Day of Atonement prayers are successful for the 144,000 remnant of Israel (Rev 7), but unsuccessful for the rest of the nation -- thus the plagues of Rev 8; 9!

Cp plagues of Egypt: Deu 28:59,60.

Note parallels with Joel in Rev 8; 9 -- sig a LD prophecy.

SILENCE IN HEAVEN: The allusion is to "the whole multitude of the people praying without" at the time of the High Priest's entering into the sanctuary. Cp Psa 65:1 (a Psa for the Day of Atonement); Hab 2:20.

Additionally, silence could be an acknowledgment that those who were judged recognized God was judging them: cp Psa 31:18.

ABOUT HALF AN HOUR: If taken literally, it is only with ref to the period the High Priest was in the sanctuary that this detail makes sense.

(CH) The Jews divided the day into 12 hours. JT suggests that a month (or 30 days) is the hour of the year. On this basis a half-hour represents 15 days, but on the principle of a day for a year (Ezek 4:6), this would represent 15 years. The text says "about" half an hour. Actually the period of peace extended for about 14 years, from 324 until a few months after the death of Constantine in 337.

Rev 8:2

TRUMPETS: For trumpets in general, see Lesson, Trumpet, the.

Rev 8:3

Amos 9:1 and context. "Ministering angels" (Heb 1:14).

ANOTHER ANGEL: In addition to 7 angels (v 2): cp Mic 5:5,6: 7 shepherds, and 8 principal men.

WHO HAD A GOLDEN CENSER: "According to some authorities [though this is not certain], it was only on the Day of Atonement that a golden censer was used" (WRev).

CAME AND STOOD AT THE ALTAR: "At" is "epi", literally "upon"! This is Amos 9:1 and context: "I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said: 'Strike the tops of the pillars so that the thresholds shake. Bring them down on the heads of all the people; those who are left I will kill with the sword. Not one will get away, none will escape'."

HE WAS GIVEN MUCH INCENSE: "It is also asserted that an extra large quantity of incense was used on the Day of Atonement -- doubtless because of Lev 16:12,13 which required that the High Priest enter into the Holy of Holies clothed (so to speak) in a dense cloud of incense" (WRev).

ON THE GOLDEN ALTAR BEFORE THE THRONE: Tabernacle motif: the altar of incense (Exo 30:1-8), which sym prayer (Luke 1:10; Psa 141:2). Only on Day of Atonement, when veil was penetrated, would incense altar be "before" (ie, in presence of) mercy-seat.

Rev 8:5

Day of Atonement, but no glory/mercy is manifested. This day finds Divine displeasure. Cp context in Rev 16:18: LD. A mighty theophany (Exo 19:16,18).

(CH) "War and revolt. On the death of Constantine, the empire became divided among his three sons. 1. Constantine the 2nd reigned in Gaul, Spain and Britain, 2. Constantius in Thrace and the East, 3. Constanz in illyricum, Italy and Africa.

"Constantine the 2nd was killed in a civil war with Constans, who was later assassinated, and the empire was once more united under Constantius, who was a ruthless ruler. The 24 years of his reign were constantly disturbed by the "voices" (civil and religious discord), "lightning" (civil war), and "thunders" (threats of international war).

"The Persians in the east, and the Allemanni and Franks in the west, constantly attacked the Empire. Constantius had murdered all his relations except Julian and Gallus. Julian was successful in repulsing the enemies of his uncle –- Constantius. The friction threatened to develop into civil war, but the timely death of Constantius brought about the elevation of Julian. Julian had never embraced Christianity, and as Emperor he brought about a political earthquake by restoring paganism, and reversing much that had been established by the former rulers.

"Under his rule the Donatists were protected (an answer to their prayers), and the bitter persecution of previous reigns was alleviated. The political earthquake of Julian, however, did not produce any lasting change (unlike the "great" earthquake of Rev 6:12). On the 26th June 363 Julian died, and with him, paganism's last hope. He was succeeded by Jovian, a Catholic, who abolished his edicts, and re-established the Catholic apostasy as the legal and privileged religion of the State" (ApEp).

Rev 8:6

Rev 8; 9: The general scheme of interpretation of the Trumpets, then, follows the same pattern as that of the Seals (the Trumpets ARE the Seventh Seal): (a) Fulfillment immediately after the writing of Rev, in the destruction of Jerusalem. (b) The "CH" fulfillment, expounded in Eur and ApEp, applies the Trumpets to the break-up of the Roman Empire by revolutions of Goths, Huns, Vandals, followed by the scourge of Saracen and Turkish invasions. (c) A rapid, intensive recapitulation-type fulfillment in the Last Days.

The first (AD 70) fulfillment finds further support from a feature of the Trumpets, which may be considered before dealing with each in detail. The Trumpets have a number of allusions to the plagues of Egypt:

These references to the Plagues, appropriate enough after the allusions in Rev 7 to the Passover and the wilderness journey, find an ominous echo in Deu 28: 59,60: "Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance... Moreover He will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt which thou wast afraid of." What else can be the point of these allusions to the plagues of Egypt if it be not to force on the attention of the reader that Rev 8; 9 describe the fulfillment of this awful threat in Deu 28?

(It may be urged as an objection against the view of the Trumpets now being advanced that if they merely recapitulate in different terms the judgements already made known by the Seals then this part of Rev is fruitless repetition. Sufficient answer to such objection is to be found in the repetition of Joseph's dreams and also Pharaoh's and Daniel's. Gen 41: 32 supplies the reason: "And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass" (cp Rev 1:1). It is God's way of being emphatic about anything. Jesus similarly recommends this form of emphasis to his disciples: "Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay" -- in other words, say it twice.)

See Lesson, Trumpet, the.

SEVEN ANGELS... SEVEN TRUMPETS: "The sounding of seven trumpets (v 6) by specially appointed priests (cp 1Ch 15:24; 2Ch 29:25-28) was an integral part of the recognized ceremonial for the Day of Atonement" (WRev).

(CH) For a period of 32 years, during the reigns of Jovian, Valentinian and Valens, Gatian, and Theodosius, and lasting to 395, preparations for impending trouble proceeded.

"It was a time of great trouble for the Roman Empire. Along the borders enemies massed, awaiting their opportunity to strike. Inside the Empire, The Apostasy flourished, proceeding from bad to worse in its tyranny and blasphemy. Politically, civil disorders daily increased. 'The fall of the Roman Empire,' declared Gibbon, 'can be justly dated from the reign of Valens' 'In this period,' wrote JT, 'the happiness and security of each individual was attacked, and the arts and labours of ages were rudely defaced by the barbarians of Scythia and Germany.'

"In 366, the Goths crossed the Danube, and under Hermani, King of the Ostrogoths, extended their power from the Danube to the Baltic. Further west, the Allemanni and Ostrogoths crossed the Rhine, and the Saxons ravaged the coasts of Gaul. The borders of the Empire were constantly under fire, and became so reduced in strength, that ultimately Rome had to enter into a treaty with the barbarians. Under the terms of this agreement, the enemies of Rome were settled in Thrace, Phrygia, and Illyricum. Openly they claimed to be allies of the Empire, but secretly they remained its enemies, awaiting the first opportunity to rise against the incompetent Government" (ApEp).

Rev 8:7

V 7: First century: Roman destruction of Jerusalem and trees (cp Jer 7:20; Eze 20:47 -- so quoted by Christ in Luk 23:31; Zec 11:1,2). Cp also Jer 6:1,15,17,20,22,23,26.

THIRD: In Eze 5:1-5, 3 thirds = the whole of Israel. Also, Israel = the 3rd with Egypt and Assyria in Isa 19:24: "In a prophecy of the Last Days Isa 19:24 speaks of Israel as being 'a third with Egypt and with Assyria.' Whereas in history and in prophecy Israel was and will be a battle ground for Egypt (the king of the south) and Assyria (the king of the north), in the day of Messiah the three are to form a harmonious unit serving the Lord. This passage suggests 'the third part' as being Israel itself in contrast to the warring forces of north and south that battle in (against?) the Holy Land. This idea is of special value in considering the Last Day fulfilment of the Trumpets" (WRev).

GREEN GRASS: Indicates time of Passover (Joh 6:4,10; Mar 6:39), when Jews were trapped in city by Romans.

CH: First Trumpet: Alaric and the Goths (395-410): "Arcadius was Emperor of the eastern portion of the Empire. He had inherited this power on the death of Theodosius and in an attempt to consolidate his power, he made Alaric the Goth master of Illyricum, supplying him with arms from the Imperial armory. For some time, Alaric had been threatening the Empire, and Arcadius' gesture was an attempt to gain his support. Alaric made preparations to seize power. After four years, he proclaimed himself king of the Visigoths, and proceeded to invade the west. He ravaged the countryside, laying waste the farms which graced the banks of the Rhine. Pleasant scenes of peace and plenty were changed into desert, and the 'hail and fire' of his widespread destruction was mingled with the blood of his many victims.

"He was opposed and defeated at Milan by the celebrated Roman general Stilicho, and was forced to retreat. Meanwhile, Rhadagaisus, king of the German tribes, invaded Italy, and proceeded to devastate it with much cruelty. The cowardly Honorious, Emperor of the West, together with the trembling Senate, lacked the power to defend themselves, and fled before the advancing Germans.

"It was again left to Stilicho to save the Empire. The German hordes were defeated and dispersed, though they were not expelled from the borders.

"In 408, after the death of Stilicho, Alaric again set out with a stronger force than ever. This time his objective was Rome. 618 years had passed since that city had been violated by the presence of a foreign enemy outside her walls. Now however, it was blockaded by the King of the Goths, and its inhabitants subjected to a siege that caused great suffering and death.

"Enraged by hunger, the desperate inmates devoured the bodies of victims, whilst even mothers tasted the flesh of their slaughtered infants. The dead lay in thousands in the streets and houses, until the stench which arose became unbearable.

"At last Alaric accepted an enormous ransom to retire. Negotiations for peace fell through, however. Rome was again besieged in 409, and again in 410. Finally the Goths obtained admission to the city and with ungovernable fury brought death and suffering to thousands within the city. After 6 days, the Goths at last evacuated Rome, and turned their fury on the southern provinces of Italy, mingling the blood of the inhabitants with the hail and fire of destruction.

"But at last death claimed Alaric (410), and the consequent disintegration and dispersion of his forces, permitted some alleviation of the miseries experienced by the Italian third of the Empire during this period" (ApEp).

Rev 8:8

THROWN INTO THE SEA: Cp Mat 21:21: "Say to this mt -- ie Zion -- 'Be removed and cast into sea'." Cp Jer 51:25,32,63. "This mt", now the site of a greater abomination: The Dome of the Rock!

A THIRD OF THE SEA TURNED INTO BLOOD: "[Josephus] tells of a tremendous encounter on the Sea of Galilee between a Jewish fleet and many ships commandeered by the Rom. In the fight the Rom slew ruthlessly. Even the drowning were shot dead by arrows. And the Jews forced to land were destroyed as they sought to come ashore. 'One might see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight, there was on the following days over the country. In this way thousands were slain' (3:10:9). Likewise, on the Mediterranean coast, a fleet of the insurgents, turned pirate, was destroyed in a mighty storm. Many of these Jews slew themselves in despair rather than perish miserably at the hands of the Roman soldiers, a fate which actually befell those who managed to reach land. 'The sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime ports were full of dead bodies... and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was 4,200' (3:9:3)" (WRev).

CH: Second Trumpet: Genseric and the Vandals (429-477): "Boniface, a general of western Rome, in the course of a dispute with his colleague Aetius, appealed for the assistance of Genseric, King of the Vandals, 50,000 of whom had settled in Spain. Crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, Genseric became the scourge of North Africa, bringing distress and dismay to that country, establishing himself as master of Hippo and Carthage. From these ports, he organised piratical excursions, ravaging the coasts of the Mediterranean, defeating the Roman Navy, destroying by fire the new fleets that were built to oppose them.

All maritime trade ceased and the sea became as 'blood'. In 455, he gained access to Rome itself, and for fourteen days, this proud city again suffered from the hands of its enemies. Genseric died in 477" (ApEp).

Rev 8:10

Third Trumpet: "A burning star falls on 'the rivers and fountains of water.' The waters are made bitter and in consequence many die. A Biblical identification of the 'rivers and fountains of waters' presents few difficulties. Several passages identify the Land of Israel: (a) The picture in Rev 7 of the wilderness journey of the redeemed is made to culminate in their reaching 'fountains of waters of life' (Rev 7:17, RV). The figure of a literal Land of Promise is only too obviously behind the use of these words. (b) Ezek 6:3: 'Thus saith the Lord God to the mountains and to the hills, to the rivers (RV: water courses; better still: wadis) and to the valleys.' And the previous verse specifies 'the mountains of Israel.' (c) Ezek 36:4,6 uses identical language of the land of Israel, in a context -- let it be noted -- which is definitely the Last Days. (d) Joel 1:20: 'the rivers of waters are dried up.' Once again it is the land of Israel in the Last Days.

"It is not unlikely that there is a certain element of the literal about this symbol. 'There was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city (Jerusalem), even a comet, that continued a whole year' (6:5:3). The phenomenon has since been identified by the astronomers as Halley's comet.

"It is rather remarkable that Isaiah's prophecy (Isa 14:12) about Lucifer, the morning star, was appropriated by Jesus to describe the fate of his contemporaries who so stubbornly resisted his appeal. 'I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven... Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shall be thrust down to hell' (Luke 10:18,14)... The Third Trumpet repeats the idea with vivid detail added. The retribution came... in the Roman War" (WRev).

CH: Third Trumpet: Attila and the Huns (433-453): "Acknowledged as lord of the lower Danube by Theodosius the younger, Attila and the dreaded Huns revolted against the Roman Empire, bringing great distress throughout the west, but mainly in the Alpine districts.

"He caused terror throughout the country, which was heightened by the ferocious and wild appearance of the Huns. Scenes of peace and plenty, were turned into smoking ruins and deserts by the senseless destruction of his hordes. Attila died in the year 453" (ApEp).

Rev 8:11

WORMWOOD: Or "bitterness". The trial of jealousy, for the unfaithful wife (Num 5; cp Jer 9:15,16; 6:26; 23:15).

"In the waters made bitter there is an impressive reversal of what Israel experienced (in a literal sense) at the very beginning of their life as a nation of God. When the People left Egypt, the bitter waters of Marah were made sweet when Moses thrust in a tree which the Lord shewed him (Exo 15: 23-27). This strange experience was interpreted by the early church as a figure of the work of Christ. Service to God under the Law of Moses, hard and bitter as Egyptian bondage (Exo 1:14), was made sweet by the Tree (the cross of Christ, 1Pe 2:24), and at the same occasion it was proclaimed: 'I am the Lord that healeth thee.' The narrative continues: 'and they encamped there by the waters' (Exo 15:27).

"But now in AD 70, with the salvation of God thrust aside and the cross of Christ execrated, there was and there has been throughout the centuries nothing but bitter waters for Israel, 'and many men died because of the waters' " (WRev).

Rev 8:12

Sun, moon, stars = Israel in Gen 37:9; 22:17; Jer 31:36; Joel 2:10; Dan 8:10.

THIRD... WITHOUT LIGHT: Caused by the smoke from the bottomless pit (Rev 9:1,2)?

CH: Fourth Trumpet: "Gothic Kingdom in Italy (476): "Romulus Augustus was placed on the throne by Orester, Secretary of State to Attila. Hewas superseded by Odoacer, King of the Heruli, who, taking Rome in 476, banished Romulus, and became King of the Western Empire. He was deposed by Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, and was later assassinated (493).

"Gothic kings continued to reign in Western Rome for about 60 years" (ApEp).

Rev 8:13

"The last three Trumpets are introduced by the vision of 'an angel (RV 'eagle') flying in the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the angels, which are yet to sound' (Rev 8:13). Because of this, and by reason of the special severity of these judgements, Trumpets 5, 6 and 7 have come to be known as the Three Woes" (WRev).

Josephus has a most interesting story (6:5:3) markedly reminiscent of this passage. He tells how for seven years before Jerusalem was destroyed a respectable citizen took to going about the city, crying aloud: "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Holy House, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people... Woe to the city, and to the people, and to the Holy House." He was brought before the Roman procurator, yet he never desisted even though his bones were laid bare with flogging. At the great Feasts his efforts were redoubled amongst the immense crowds. Finally he died in the siege, struck by a mighty sling-stone from the Romans, and crying to the last: "Woe, woe, woe."

An eagle figures prominently in Hos 8:1; Deu 28:49; and Mat 24:28: prophecies about God's judgments upon Israel.

"The interesting textual problem as to whether the AV or RV reading of Rev 8:13 is correct is best solved amicably in favour of both. The best manuscripts certainly read 'eagle'; but a comparison with other passages makes it equally clear that an angel is referred to. 'And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel...' (Rev 14:6). Here the phraseology is precisely the same, only this time the reading 'angel' is indubitable. And the word 'another' picks out this passage as an echo of Rev 8:13.

"The conclusion indicated is, then, that the angel of Rev 8:13 is one in the character of an eagle; such is the nature of the commission entrusted to him. Cp Rev 19:17,18: 'And I saw an angel standing in the sun (cp 'in midheaven') and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains...' " (WRev).

MIDAIR: The original word actually denotes the expanse of space between heaven and earth. It is readily seen to be a reminiscence of the occasion of David's numbering of the people and the wrath that came on Israel because of it. David, it will be remembered, chose as punishment three days of pestilence as preferable to three months of war or three years of famine. "And David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched over Jerusalem..." (1Ch 21:16). The resemblance to this in Rev 8:13 encourages yet further the idea that the remaining Trumpets are God's "woes" against a sinful Israel.

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