Today we will consider the third vision cycle of the book of Revelation. John’s point of view has now switched from heaven to earth. We will see seven angels act as agents of judgment and blow the seven trumpets (8:6). Each trumpet represents a temporal judgment on the wicked in the present age. That there are seven angels and seven trumpets means this is symbolic of all judgment in the present age. The trumpet is also used in the Bible as indicating the presence of God. These are God’s judgments on the wicked – both man and angel.
The first trumpet blows and images of the plagues of Egypt are brought to mind. The hail and fire (v. 7) were the seventh plague on Egypt (Ex 9:23-26) The blood is the third sign God gave Moses to prove he was sent by God (Ex 4:8-9). This shows that this is judgment from God upon the persecutors of His people. That a “third” of the earth, etc. are burned up show the incomplete nature of this judgment. This is not the final judgment and it does not affect everyone.
Next, a great mountain burning with fire is thrown into the sea (v. 8). This mountain is the kingdom of the world under Satan’s control. It being thrown into the sea is the destruction of Satan’s kingdom by the church as we reclaim the world for God. We again see that “third” that points to the incomplete nature of this judgment. Note again that the water turning to blood brings to mind the plagues of Egypt. The star falling from heaven (v. 10) is Satan. This is his expulsion from heaven at the end of Christ’s First Coming. He is now on earth leading unbelievers into death (v. 11). In other words, God uses Satan and his deceit as a form of punishment on the reprobate.
The fourth trumpet serves as a summary of the first three. The darkness (another plague from Egypt!) is judgment on the world (v. 12). It is the spiritual darkness in which God leaves the reprobate. Again, the “third” symbolizes the partial nature of this judgment. This is not the final judgment and it does not affect all unbelievers. But it is a foretaste of the final judgment, symbolized by the complete darkening of the heavenly lights (see 6:12-17). John then hears an eagle (likely an angel) pronouncing woe on the inhabitants of earth (over against the church) because of the last three trumpets (v. 13).
Chapter 9 begins with the fifth trumpet/first woe. The star is an angel (9:1, 11). Stars are often used as symbols of heavenly beings (see 8:10). This is the angel who has authority over the abyss (or bottomless pit). This is a reference to the temporary place of suffering the reprobate are in until the final judgment when they will go into the lake of fire. The smoke and darkness (v. 2), and the horrible sounding locusts (v. 3, 7-10), represent judgment that is only for the wicked. This is clear from verse 4. That these beings torment the unsaved for five months shows the temporary nature of this punishment (v. 5). That they cannot “kill” those in this place shows that this is not the final spiritual death (the second death) reserved for the final judgment. The torment will be so bad that people will desperately want it to end, but it will not (v. 6). This is the first of three woes (v. 12).
When the sixth trumpet is blown, John hears a voice from the Altar of Incense (v. 13, see 6:9, 8:3-5) speak to the sixth angel (v. 14). The four angels bound at the river Euphrates are likely the same angels of judgment from 7:1. The Euphrates is often used in the Old Testament as the place from which judgment comes (like Assyria and Babylon). These angels of judgment have been foreordained from eternity for the exact moment the final judgment would begin (v. 15). The mounted troops are the host of heaven (v. 16). We will see throughout the book of Revelation that the final judgment is not momentary, but there is time for the people of earth to realize what is happening (as in the sixth seal – see 6:15-17). That is what is happening here. Christ returns with the heavenly host and the destruction of wicked mankind begins (vv. 17-19), yet those who see it happening will still refuse to repent (vv. 20-21). We see in the sixth trumpet a parallel to the sixth seal.
We also see, as with the sixth and seventh seals, there is a break between the sixth and seventh trumpets. Here, John sees a mighty angel coming from heaven (10:1). This is Christ. His standing on land and sea symbolizes His reign over the whole earth (v. 2). The “little” scroll is a part of the time between His two comings. When Christ speaks, seven thunders sound (v. 3). Note there are seven thunders, and the sound is clearly a voice, as John intends to write down what he heard (v. 4). What they spoke of was the final judgment – the completion (seven) of all things. But John is told by God not to write down the end yet. The seventh trumpet needs to sound to complete all things (vv. 5-7). John is instructed to take the scroll and eat it (v. 9). That it is sweet in his mouth means initially it was pleasant because it speaks of the end when the elect will be glorified. But after “digesting” it a bit, it becomes bitter to John because it also means the eternal punishment of the reprobate. Christ then tells John that he will, in fact, have to again write of the end (v. 11). This scroll contains the end, the account of which we will read when we get to the seven bowls of God’s wrath.
John then sees another vision. This vision is reminiscent of the new Temple in Ezekiel 40-48. The measuring rod measures the true elect (11:1). The outer court is the world (v. 2). This is where we are first introduced to what we will call “the three-and-a-half.” It is represented variously as 42 months (v. 2), 1,260 days (v. 3), and later as a “time, times, and half a time” (1 + 2 + 1/2 = 3 1/2). The significance of 3 1/2 is that it is half of seven. This is an indication of the lack of completion or perfection that this number represents. In every case in the book of Revelation, the three-and-a-half represents the time immediately preceding Christ’s return when the church will be persecuted at the hands of the anti-Christ and the superlative kingdom of this world. There will be a great apostacy from the visible church at this time, as well.
Here, these two witnesses are Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the prophets). We know this because the signs these witnesses perform are those of Moses and Elijah (v. 6). They are together a representation of the Word of God. That they are witnesses during the three-and-a-half indicate how the Gospel will be preached right up to the end (see 6:2, Matt 24:14). This represents the faithful who persevere to the end, holding on to our testimony in the face of great persecution. When our testimony is complete, the anti-Christ, working in the power of Satan, will be revealed (v. 7). It will appear to the world that the church has been destroyed. “Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified” is a reference to the world over against the church. When the church appears to have been defeated at the hands of the world, the world will rejoice (vv. 9-10). But shortly thereafter will be the resurrection and the rapture (v. 11), we will meet Christ in the air (“come up here” in verse 12 – see 1 Thess 4:15-17), and the final judgment will begin (v. 13).
The seventh trumpet is that final judgment and the return of Christ. The kingdom of the world (currently ruled by Satan and the powers of darkness) will be fully and forever reclaimed by Christ (v. 15, 17-18), and we will worship Him forever (v. 16). The Temple in heaven being opened is heaven coming to earth, where they will be one (the New Heaven and New Earth) (v. 19). The Ark is Christ. The lightning, rumblings, thunder, and earthquake show that this is the same final judgment described in 8:5.