NT Prophecy – Revelation 8-9

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.
The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, 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 turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.
As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!”

  • Revelation 8:1-13

The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).
The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.
The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.
The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

  • Revelation 9:1-21

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Revelation 8-11 ‘The Seven Trumpets’:Note the following table

“The Seven Trumpets
Trumpet One (Rev. 8:7)Ravaging Fires
Trumpet Two (Rev. 8:8, 9)Seas Polluted
Trumpet Three (Rev. 8:10, 11)Fresh water contaminated
Trumpet Four (Rev. 8:12, 13)Celestial disruption
Trumpet Five (Rev. 9:1-12)Demon invasion
Trumpet Six (Rev. 9:13-21)Demons wage war
Trumpet Seven (Rev. 11:15-19)The seven bowls”
  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 8:1-5 ‘opening of the seventh seal and the vision of the censer’: “As the seventh seal is broken, an ominous silence settles in across the realms of heaven (8:1). The tumultuous noise of angels’ praise, elders’ songs, and living creatures’ words has now ceased in anticipation of what is soon to take place. The silence is of a relatively short duration, about half an hour, during which time John waits to see what it all portends. The broken seal unfolds into a new set of visions, this time seven trumpets (8:2). Some scholars discuss whether the events depicted by the seven trumpets follow sequentially upon the six opened seals, or whether, as is more probable, they run parallel to them, so that the seals, trumpets, and bowls (to come later) are all broadly descriptive of the same period of time. Before the trumpets sound, another vision crowds in upon John’s sight. An angel appears in a scene reminiscent of temple worship, with a censer to be filled with incense, lit with fire from the golden altar and hurled to the earth in the midst of shattering noise, which, presumably broke the half-hour silence (8:3-5). This is reminiscent of the scene at Mount Sinai when God spoke to Moses and the people in the midst of trumpet blasts, thunder, smoke, and fire (Exod. 19:16-19). In Revelation 5:8 the incense is the prayers of the saints; here in 8:3-5 the incense accompanies the prayers of the saints, but the image is still the same. It is a sacrifice of sweet smell in the courts of heaven (see Ps. 141 :2). The altar is the same one the martyrs are under (6:9—11) and perhaps their cry ‘How long?’ is the prayer that now ascends with the smoke and is cast back upon the earth as an answer, in judgment upon the evil deeds of men who murdered God’s servants.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 8:2-9:21, 11:15-19 ‘The Seven Trumpets’: “The seven trumpets come out of the breaking of the seventh seal. Seven angels will sound forth the events that are to come with each trumpet. Verses 3-6 act as the prelude to the trumpet judgments, and these verses give to the reader another vision of what is taking place in heaven. ‘Another’ angel, distinct from the seven (verse 3), stands before the heavenly altar, holding a golden censer. More incense is added, which represents the additional prayers of all the Tribulation saints (5:8). The prayers are symbolically placed ‘on the golden altar which was before the throne’ of God (8:3). These prayers are like sweet incense that goes ‘up before God out of the angel’s hand’ (verse 4).
“The Lord then commands that the fire on the altar be thrown to the earth in judgment. This is graphically illustrated with the ‘peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake’ (verse 5). The Lord is furious with the death of His saints, who are tormented and tortured to death by the cruel acts of persecution taking place all over the earth. All of this precedes the sounding of the trumpets from the seven angels (verse 6). These trumpet judgments will bring even greater cataclysmic events upon the earth.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Revelation 8:2 ‘seven trumpets’: “In Revelation, trumpets primarily announce impending judgment. The trumpets are of greater intensity than the seals, but not as destructive as the final bowl judgments will be (cf. 16:1—21). They occur during the final three and one-half years, but the time of each is indefinite, except the effects of the fifth trumpet judgment, which will last five months (9: 10). The first four announce the divine destruction of earth’s ecology (vv. 6-12), while the final three involve demonic devastation of earth’s inhabitants (9:1-21; 11:15ff.).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 8:3 ‘prayer made acceptable to God’: “Many Christians think their prayers are not heard because they are such poor things. But it is certain that every true prayer gets into the golden censer before the eternal throne of God. God has made provision for ensuring the acceptance of his people’s prayers. The ‘incense’ offered ‘with the prayers of all the saints’ makes our poor prayers acceptable to God—not the merit of our prayers but the power of Christ’s prevailing intercession. Jesus Christ has been appointed to the office of high priest so that he may take our supplications and present them before the throne of the Most High. No true prayer from the heart of a true child of God will miss its mark; all will reach the heavenly target.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Revelation 8:3 ‘censer’: “A golden pan, suspended on a rope or chain, that was used to transport fiery coals from the brazen altar to the altar of incense, in order to ignite the incense, symbolizing the prayers of the people (5:8; Ex. 27:3; cf. Luke 1:8, 9). This occurred twice daily at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 8:6-13 ‘blowing of the first four trumpets’: “The trumpets are divided into two groups by John. The first four are a group by themselves and the last three are further identified as the three woes. So the first four trumpets stand alone, the fifth trumpet becomes the first woe: the sixth trumpet is the second woe, and the seventh trumpet in some form or other is the third woe. …
“The first angel sounds his trumpet (v. 7). which results in a judgment of hail and fire that is reminiscent of the seventh plague on Egypt (Exod. 9:23—25) and answers to God’s threat in Ezekiel 38:22 to judge the earth in the end times with torrents of rain, hailstones, and burning sulphur. The second angel sounds his trumpet (v. 8) and a blazing mountain cast into the sea turns it into blood, reminding one of the first plague on Egypt (Exod. 7:14-21). Here, as with all of the first four trumpets, it is a partial judgment with only a third of the creation stricken. The third angel sounds his trumpet (v. 9). The star Wormwood falls into the drinking water and makes it bitter (see Jer. 9: 15). Many die in this plague. The fourth angel sounds his trumpet (v. 12) and the sun, moon, and stars are darkened, so that men must grope about in an unnatural and eerie twilight. Following this an eagle announces the next three trumpets as a triple woe upon the earth.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 9:1-12 ‘blowing of the fifth trumpet’: “John now has a panoramic view (apparently from an earthly perspective) of what is taking place. A star falls, and as it nears the earth it gradually takes the shape of a person who has a key that unlocks the shaft of the abyss, from which Satan and his forces are released upon the earth. In 20:1-3 an angel locks Satan back into the abyss for the thousand-year reign of Christ. The satanic forces are likened to a plague of locusts (9:3), reminding one of the Book of Joel where the same imagery is used (Joel 2:1-11). This judgment will fall upon those who rejected God and not upon the natural order (Rev. 9:4). The seal of God, which is upon God’s servants (7:3), protects them from the torturous sting of the satanic attack. The description of the locusts (9:7-10) is interesting. They are centaurlike creatures with lionlike features, while the iron breastplate makes them more insectlike. A peculiarity is the scorpion’s tail they possess. The crowns they wear symbolize invincibility and their human features make them all the more grotesque by lifting them out of the realm of the purely animal and enduing them with fallen human intelligence. They have a leader whose name, in both Hebrew and Greek, is the Destroyer (9:11). Destruction is their ultimate goal, of course, but in this visitation they are not allowed to kill, only torment. Indeed, many suffering but unrepentant humans would like to escape the consequences of their actions in death, but are not allowed to do so (9:6). They must reap what they have sown.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 9:1 ‘a star fallen from heaven’: “Unlike the other stars that will have fallen (6:13; 8:8), this one will be an angelic being (cf. v. 2)-probably Satan himself (v. 4; 12:7; …). bottomless pit. Lit. “pit of the abyss.” Mentioned seven times in Revelation, it always refers to the prison where some of the demonic hordes are incarcerated, the place of severest torment and isolation (vv. 1,2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3…).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 9:3 ‘locusts’: “Grasshopper-like insects that descend in swarms so thick they can obscure the sun and strip bare all vegetation. In the 1950s, a locust swarm devoured every growing thing for several hundred thousand square miles in the Middle East. These are not normal locusts, however, but specially prepared ones that are merely the outward form of demons, who, like locusts, will bring swarming desolation (Joel 2:2, 4). Like appears nine times in John’s description; he finds it difficult to describe what he sees in a way the reader can understand. scorpions. An arachnid that inhabits warm, dry regions and has an erect tail tipped with a venomous stinger. A scorpion’s victim often rolls on the ground in agony, foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth in pain. The demons, in locust form, are able to inflict the physical—and perhaps, spiritual—pain like the scorpion (v. 5).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 9:13-21 ‘blowing of the sixth trumpet’: “With the blowing of the sixth trumpet a voice is heard coming from the upper part of the golden altar, which is described a little more precisely as having horns (v. 13; see also Exod. 30:1-3). That the voice comes from the altar perhaps distinguishes it from the martyrs’ voices heard from beneath the altar. It is as though the martyrs cry out and the altar, in some fashion, responds. The voice commands the angels who held back the Euphrates to release it and as it rushes toward the west it becomes a vast army of two hundred million mounted soldiers (9:14-15). It is interesting to note the role played by the angels in all of this and how God accomplishes his will through them. It is also important to note that nothing happens without God’s appointment; the angels act at God’s command at the precise moment and the judgment is unleashed. These mounted soldiers are agents of destruction and are commanded to kill, not just torment, as was the case with the locusts. The horses are colorfully described as fiery red, dark blue, and sulfurous yellow, belching out fire, smoke, and noxious fumes (9:17). Like the locusts, they had serpents’ tails, which were used with devastating effect (9:19).
“This sixth trumpet, or second woe, ends with an important theological observation on John’s part (9:20-21). He notes that those who were not killed in the first six plagues learned nothing from their experience. Just as in the case of Pharaoh, who continued to harden his heart as God sent the plagues upon Egypt (Exod. 7:22-23; 8:15, 32; 9:7, 34-35), so here, mankind refuses to acknowledge God as God. Their evil ways include the worship of demons, idolatry, murder, occult practices, sexual immorality, and theft. Jesus’ commands to love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40) are violated here by the refusal to acknowledge God in worship and obedience, and by violating our fellow human beings by murder, theft, and sexual abuse. All of this calls forth the mighty judgment of God.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 9:16 ‘the army’: “Some see this as a reference to forces accompanying the kings of the east (16: 12) and identify them with a human army coming from Asia. But that event occurs in connection with the seventh trumpet, not the sixth. The language is better understood as referring to a demon force that makes war with the earth’s inhabitants and kills one-third of humanity (v. 15).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 9:21 ‘they did not repent’: “Cf. 16:9, 11, 21. sorceries. This Greek word is the root of the English word pharmacy. Drugs in the ancient world were used to dull the senses and induce a state suitable for religious experiences such as seances, witchcraft, incantations, and cavorting with mediums (21:8; 22:15).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Revelation 9 ‘Reflections’: “Were some watcher or holy one from the bright world above to come among us for a time with the power to diagnose the spiritual ills of church people, there is one entry which l am quite sure would appear on the vast majority of his reports: Definite evidence of chronic spiritual lassitude; level of moral enthusiasm extremely low.
“What makes this condition especially significant is that Americans are not naturally an unenthusiastic people. Indeed they have a worldwide reputation for being just the opposite. Visitors to our shores from other countries never cease to marvel at the vigor and energy with which we attack our problems. We live at a fever pitch, and whether we are erecting buildings, laying highways, promoting athletic events, celebrating special days, or welcoming returning heroes, we always do it with an exaggerated flourish. Our building will be taller, our highway broader, our athletic contest more colorful, our celebration more elaborate and more expensive than would be true anywhere else on earth. We walk faster, drive faster, earn more, spend more, and run a higher blood pressure than almost any other people in the world.
“ln only one field of human interest are we slow and apathetic; that is the field of personal religion. There for some strange reason our enthusiasm flags. Church people habitually approach the matter of their personal relation to God in a dull, halfhearted way which is altogether out of keeping with their general temperament and wholly inconsistent with the importance of the subject.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect

Coffee and Revelation – Introduction
Coffee and Revelation – Part 41, Revelation 8:1
Coffee and Revelation – Part 42, Revelation 8:2-5
Coffee and Revelation – Part 43, Revelation 8:6-13
Coffee and Revelation – Part 44, Revelation 9:1-12
Coffee and Revelation – Part 45, Revelation 9:13-17
Coffee and Revelation – Part 46, Revelation 9:20-21

My Thoughts

Jesus told us to look to the skies.  Most would think that Jesus meant that He would return, riding a white horse, coming in the clouds, but when the censer is thrown toward earth, there is lightning and thunder.  We must look to the skies, because there will be trumpet blasts before great wonders occur, but that is near the end.

Incense has been used twice in Revelation, both times referring to the prayers that are lifted up.

The Baker commentary offers that the seals, trumpets, and bowls are simultaneously deployed, but I do not think so.  Why would the last seal being opened lead to the seven angels raising trumpets?  And for those on earth who had read their Scriptures and rejected it, having everything happen in sequence is a clear sign that this is God’s judgment.

We see little upsets in the world today and we react with “The End Times, The End Times!”  Really?  We may be experiencing birth pains, but we have experienced nothing like these plagues.  Yes, Climate Change, by many governments and the UN, will lead to a One World Order and that will lead to the AntiChrist as the ruler of the earth.  But that is still in theory.  We are not there yet.

Since we are not there yet, we can still spread the Gospel and God can save more souls.  But as Revelation 9 ends, will anyone listen?

In the first four of the trumpets, God is reversing creation, one step at a time, and only partially doing so.  With the hail, fire mixed with blood, a third of the vegetation on earth dies, gets burned up.  With the mountain falling into the sea, one third of the water turns to blood, killing one third of the ocean life, and destroying one third of the ships, thus people will die.  With the star, Wormwood, making one third of the waters bitter, people will get sick and die.  And then one third of the stars will lose their light and the light will die in one third of the sun and the moon, with one third of the day and the night thrust into darkness.  About four years ago, I wrote about the plagues of Egypt and how they are similar to these plagues of the End Times.  In these first four trumpets, we have water turned to blood, hail, and darkness.  One could easily infer that with a third of sea life dead, there will be an increase in flies.  And with the fifth trumpet, we will have locusts.  Okay, we will have something that is locust-like.

But before the fifth trumpet blasts, an eagle flies to say that there are coming three woes.  As we understand, the woes come with the next three trumpets.

I have often combined the fourth and fifth trumpets, making the star, Wormwood, as the angel who unlocks the abyss, but these are two separate things.  The angel with the key is called Destroyer instead of Bitterness anyway.  With the fifth trumpet, the locusts, if you could call them that, are released from the abyss, the abyss that the demons during Jesus’ time did not wish to be cast into.  Thus, Rev. MacArthur’s idea of the locusts being demons, who are allowed to torture, but not kill, anyone not having the seal of the Lord.  The scorpion-like aspect is described by Rev. MacArthur to illustrate how painful the sting was, how lingering the effects.  For five months, these creatures tormented those people in rebellion against God.

Then, with the sixth trumpet, the “Euphrates” is released.  The number that John mentions may be a figurative number, but I feel God would have an idea of something near the exact number.  Ten thousand times ten thousand is 100 million troops in the army from the east.  Twice that is 200 million.  Presently, counting active military, reserves, and paramilitary, Vietnam, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China could easily muster 22.3 million.  Russia, India, and Pakistan also have huge military forces.  But if you lined up horses like they did in one of the Lord of the Rings movies (with a little movie trickery), everyone would be ducking for cover rather than counting the forces.  Yet, in killing a third of the human population with fire, smoke, and sulfur, who cares how many of what was in the army.

As for the “what” of the army, I tend to agree with Rev. MacArthur again.  200 million demons, riding horses that have lion faces, breathing fire …  That does not sound like tanks and artillery, although they both can “breathe fire.”  In fact, some tanks are designed with flame thrower capability.

And as for the deaths by fire, smoke, and sulfur.  The Apostle John may not be writing poetically.  Smoke claims many people’s lives long before the fire reaches them.  As for the “sulfur”, that could be any form of chemical warfare or a different aspect of the fire, such as noxious fumes as various things are burned.

And then they did not repent.  Rev. MacArthur’s reference only lists three verses in Revelation 16.  They did not repent.  They did not repent.  They cursed God for sending the plagues.

I thought of this with the outpouring of vitriol after the recent Roe vs. Wade reversal.  The Supreme Court in the USA simply said that abortion is not a federal constitutional issue.  They did not remove abortion.  Each state can decide, and then you can go to a pro-choice state, if you choose.  But being master of your own body should start with not having sex – oh, sorry, I am not allowed to bring that up.  But in seeing the angry faces of those who, in God’s eyes are doing sexually immoral things and then killing the child that results, it ties perfectly with the end of Revelation 9.

Picture any number of national leaders today, many claiming to be Christians, and you can easily see how they would curse God.  “Oh, God, why bring these plagues on earth.  I had a plan that would solve the problem without Your interference!”

“I had a plan?”  Indeed.  “Without God’s interference?”

Wake up, world.  Our plans to solve the world’s problems will not work, and ignoring God is the reason why there will one day be a day when God says, “Enough is enough.”  Our “plans” will be God’s reason for Christ’s return because we ignore Him in the process.

But the Hope for all true believers is that Jesus Christ will return some day, and maybe soon.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

Revelation 8: 1. Does this imagery seem far removed to you? When was the last time you tried silent meditation or cried for justice? What happened?
Revelation 8-9. The first six trumpets: 1. What do you think of Christians who pray for trouble to strike the unbelieving world? And what do you think of God’s answer to such prayers? What modern-day realities does the imagery of these plagues bring to mind for you? How might they have applied equally well in John’s day’?
“2. How do you feel when you read this account of stranger-than-fiction events? What is the ‘who’ and ‘why’ behind all these events?
“3. How has the star named ‘Wormwood’ or ‘Bitterness’ affected your life? How has your bitterness affected others? What have you discovered as an antidote to bitterness?
“4. What do you have in common with the people mentioned in 9:20-21? What will you do about this today?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is two sets of questions for these two chapters.  One covers the general imagery of this prophecy and the other set focuses on the trumpets.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

The last question refers to those that remain are unrepentant.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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