Harry Whittaker
Revelation - A Biblical Approach

Chapter 17 - Seven Angels with Seven Trumpets (8:1-6)

Revelation chapter 8 begins: “And when he had opened the seventh seal ... I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given the seven trumpets.”

It is reasonable (though not absolutely necessary) to regard the Seventh Seal as having an application in conformity with the preceding six. If then there is good reason for interpreting the first six seals with regard to the First Century the same key should unlock the meaning of the Seventh, that is, of the Trumpets. And if the first six seals apply to the Last Days, so also the Seventh.

Similarly, if ch. 7 with its vision of the Sealed Multitude has a dual application of the kind just mentioned, one would naturally expect the same to be true of chapters 8, 9 because of the close interlocking of phrases: e.g. compare ch. 7:3 with 8:7, 8 and 9:4.

There is, perhaps, a hint of more than one fulfilment in the opening phrase of the introductory vision: “And when (literally: whenever) he opened the seventh seal...,” as though implying an element of doubt as to when the seventh Seal would be opened, i.e. the fulfilment of this part of Revelation may be looked for immediately (“things which must shortly come to pass”) or at some long deferred crisis.


A study of other details in this introductory passage brings to light some more features of a similar character. Some of these spring out of a realization that this opening vision of the incense-offering angel is couched in terms which belong to the Day of Atonement ritual:

“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. Psalm 65:1 (a Psalm for the Day of Atonement); Habakkuk 2:20.

“Silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” It is only with reference to the period the High Priest was in the sanctuary that this detail makes sense.

“Another angel ... having a golden censer.” According to some authorities, it was only on the Day of Atonement that a golden censer was used.[33]

“There was given unto him much incense.” It is also asserted that an extra large quantity of incense was used on the Day of Atonement - doubtless because of Leviticus 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.

“That he should offer it ... upon the golden altar which is before the throne.” That the altar of incense, normally separated from the Holy of Holies by the veil, should be spoken of as “before the throne” probably implies that the veil has been penetrated-which thing took place only on the Day of Atonement.

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

On the day of Atonement the High Priest also read from the Law in the hearing of all the people, as he stood at the east gate of the priests’ court. To this might correspond the angel of Revelation 10:2 with the little book which he imparts to John.

Ch. 7:3: “the sealing of God’s servants.” The Jews had a strange tradition, the meaning of which is not quite clear, that on the Day of Atonement every Jew is sealed in one of three Books - the Book of Life (Revelation 5: 1?), the Book of Death, or another Book which was to be opened on the following Day of Atonement.


There are two noteworthy facts about these allusions to the Day of Atonement. The first is the striking absence of any mention of the shining forth of the Shekinah Glory or of the High Priestly blessing of the multitude. This would suggest that the transaction is closely associated with something specially displeasing to God, namely the unworthiness of Israel. Instead there is a casting of fiery judgement upon the Land. The prayers of the saints on behalf of Jerusalem, whether offered by the Lord’s disciples (Matthew 24:22) or by the nation (“saints” = the holy people, as in Daniel 8:24), are not effective to avert this judgement


This angel is described, rather peculiarly, as “standing upon the altar.”[34] Such a phrase occurs in only one other place. “I saw the Lord standing upon the altar” (Amos 9:1). There can be little doubt that Revelation 8:3 makes a deliberate reference to this passage. The context there is instructive. Amos sees the vision of the Lord in the temple at the time of the earthquake in the reign of king Uzziah. It is probable that Isaiah saw the same vision (comparison should be made between the details of Amos 9 and those of Isaiah 6 and 2).

Amos was commissioned to denounce upon Israel a threnody of judgement. The prophet foretold earthquake disaster, men trying to hide from the wrath of God in the bowels of the earth, and being afflicted by His anger even in captivity. Yet he was emphatic (v. 8, 9) that the faithful remnant would be protected. Then suddenly a dazzling picture of the blessings of Messiah’s reign dissipates the gloom.

The parallel with Revelation 6, 7, 8 is remarkably close. Revelation 6: 12-17 describes earthquake and judgement; 7:1-8 describes protection for God’s faithful remnant; and 7: 9-17 gives a promise of the Kingdom. With mention of the angel standing beside the altar (Revelation 8:3), the visions of gloom are resumed.


In all this there is a strong suggestion that the trumpet visions, soon to follow, have to do with divine retribution and chastisement of Israel in the First Century and in the Last Days.

A further argument strengthens this conclusion.

The sealing of the servants of God (Revelation 7:3) was seen to be an idea drawn from Ezekiel. It is actually only one of a series of allusions, which can be traced:


7:2. “The end is come upon the four corners of the land.”
7:1. “Four angels standing on the four corners of the earth (Land).”

9:2. Seven men to smite Israel.
7:2. “Four angels (the first four of the seven; ch. 8:2) to whom it is given to hurt the earth and the sea. “

9: 4. The faithful sealed in their foreheads
7:3, 4. The faithful sealed in their foreheads.

9:8. “They went forth ... and I was left.”
8:1. “The seventh seal ... silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”

9:8. Ezekiel’s prayer for mercy.
8:3. “the prayers of the saints offered before God.”

9:9. The prayer rejected.
The judgement goes forward uninterrupted.

10:2. Fire scattered over the city.
8:5. Fire scattered on the earth (Land).

10:4,18,19. The “glory” departs from Israel (accompanied by“voices, thunderings, lightnings”; 1:13, 14, 24).
8:5,6. “voices, thunderings, lightnings,an earthquake” and the sounding of the trumpet - the end of the covenant made at Sinai (Exodus 19:18, 19).

A correspondence such as this is no accident, and can point to only one conclusion: the Trumpets represent divine judgements on Israel, just as did the prophecies of Ezekiel.

Yet one further connection between ch. 8 and what preceded can be indicated before going on to consider the Trumpets in detail. The first four Trumpets, as distinct from the three Woes, are “the four winds of the earth” (ch. 7:1) which in turn are identified by Zechariah 6: 5 R.V. as the fourfold cherubim chariot, i.e. the four horses of Revelation 6. So once again a similar interpretation to that of Revelation 6 is called for.

When chapter 8 is examined in detail it will be seen that its connections with the rest of Scripture similarly point time after time to the Land of Israel as the setting for the terrible events described.

The seven trumpets are given to “seven angels which stand before God.” Are these the seven who, with Christ as eighth, constituted the “seven shepherds and eight principal men” of Micah 5:5? The phrase “which stand before God” immediately suggests the angel Gabriel (Luke 1: 19).


It is a pertinent question to enquire why this further series of symbolic judgements should be introduced by the sounding of trumpets. That the introductory vision is one of the Day of Atonement does not exhaust the figurative meaning to be attached to the Trumpets.

A review of the main ideas associated with trumpets in the Bible brings to light the following:

Summons to God’s people to assemble before Him; Numbers 10: 1-10; Matthew 24:30.

Hence, their special use at the Feast of Trumpets on the first day of the seventh month; Leviticus 25: 9; Psalm 81:3.

This in turn was a type of the Day of Resurrection; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 11: 15, 18; 1 Corinthians 15: 51, 52.

Special use also on the Day of Atonement; Joel 2:15; Isaiah 58:1.

A warning of approaching war; Ezekiel 33:1-6, and many others.

To assemble an army; Numbers 31: 6; 2 Chronicles 13: 12, 14; Judges 3: 27, and many others.

The coronation or approach of the King; 1 Kings 1: 34, 39; 2 Kings 9:13 and 11 :12, 14; hence Psalm 98:6. With this also connect:

The coming of the Ark (the Presence of God the King); 1 Chronicles 15:24, 28 and 16:6, 42. A special example of this is:

The destruction of Jericho; Joshua 6:4-20; 2 Corinthians 10:4-8.

Of these (d) has already been mentioned. (e) is also appropriate in view of the warring armies to be described in Trumpets 5 and 6. (f) also has a bearing on the same two Trumpets especially, since they mention the summoning of angels of war (however one interprets these).

In the light of the suggestion already made (and to be reinforced and reiterated) that this part of Revelation also has at least a double fulfilment with reference to (1) the destruction of Jerusalem, (2) the judgements of God in the Last Day, the “Jericho’s Judgement” context is especially apposite, particularly in the light of ch.11: 19 where the Seventh Trumpet has mention of the ark of God’s covenant (Joshua 6:8) and also of earthquake. It is almost as though 1st Century Jerusalem, spoken of in ch. 11:8 as spiritual Sodom and Egypt, is here being likened to Jericho, fit only for utter destruction.


But again, Jericho figures in an elaborate type of the redemption of God’s people at the consummation of the ages. The student should note the significance of the following sequence:

  1. Israel in bondage.
  2. Brought forth through the Blood of the Lamb.
  3. Baptized in the cloud and in the sea.
  4. Given a Law from heaven.
  5. Sustained by divinely-provided food and drink.
  6. A long toilsome wilderness journey
  7. Then follow the details to be found in Joshua, all of them pre-figuring the glorification of the saints and their entering upon their eternal inheritance.
  8. Joshua (Jesus) the Leader.
  9. The crossing of Jordan.
  10. Jordan cut off at Adam.
  11. Twelve old stones left in Jordan and twelve new ones brought out of it.
  12. The Ark the Alpha and Omega.
  13. Circumcision - the old nature done away with.
  14. Manna no longer necessary.
  15. In the crossing, 2,000 cubits between the ark and the main body.
  16. Jubilee trumpets used.
  17. Victory over Jericho divinely given, on the Sabbath, by “the Lord of all the earth.”
  18. The extermination of adversaries.
  19. Judgement on the unworthy amongst God’s People.
There are doubtless other details that fit aptly into the same picture. In such a context the “Jericho” setting of the Trumpets suggests an interpretation of Revelation 8, 9 with reference to the Last Days, as well as to the destruction of Jerusalem. Similarly, paragraph (g) is very pointed, as suggesting the coming of Christ the King (see Revelation 11:15).

Perhaps also, in line with these ideas, it is permissible to see a special significance in the phrase: “The seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound” (v. 6). It would almost seem as though a special effort on the part of even these angelic beings was necessary in connection with the work they were called on to do. Can it be just coincidence that it is of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and of the fearful happenings at the Coming of Christ that Scripture says both of these are “a time of trouble such as never was” (Matthew 24:21; Daniel 12:1), and also, “the powers of heaven shall be shaken”?

Thus the prelude to the Trumpets brings before the Bible-minded student a large number of ideas, all of them clustering round two great crises in the divine purpose. It will be found that all the details that follow fall easily and scripturally into the same two moulds.


The general scheme of interpretation of the Trumpets, then, follows the same pattern as that of the Seals (the Trumpets are the Seventh Seal):

Fulfilment immediately after the writing of Revelation, in the destruction of Jerusalem.

The “continuous-historic” fulfilment, expounded in “Eureka,” applies the Trumpets to the break up of the Roman Empire by irruptions of Goths, Huns, Vandals, followed by the scourge of Saracen and Turkish invasions.

A rapid, intensive recapitulatory fulfilment in the Last Days.

In this study attention is to be concentrated on the first and third of these. For obvious reasons it will not be possible to give the third interpretation in detail. One day, before long, readers of Revelation will waken up to find that it is being fulfilled again in their own experience.


The first (A.D. 70) fulfilment 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:

Plagues of Egypt

Fire from the altar cast upon the earth.
Dust of the furnace (of the altar) sprinkled abroad.

Hail and fire.
Hail and fire.

Sea became blood.
Waters turned to blood.



Abaddon, the Destroyer.
The Destroyer (Exodus 12:23).

Men slain by angels.
The firstborn slain by angels.

These references to the Plagues, appropriate enough after the allusions in ch. 7 to the Passover and the wilderness journey, find an ominous echo in Deuteronomy 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 Revelation 8, 9 describe the fulfilment of this awful threat in Deuteronomy 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 Revelation 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. Genesis 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” (Revelation 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.

In the detailed study of the first four Trumpets, which follows, attention will be concentrated first of all on the A.D. 70 fulfilment, and after that on the fulfilment that is yet future.

[33] This detail may not be taken as certain.
[34] ‘This is the literal translation. It is a familiar Hebraism for “beside the altar.”
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