Revelation chapter 8 the seventh seal
8:1* ¶ When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Chapter 8 is a continuation of the vision of the 7 seals. The sixth seal takes us up to the time of the second coming of Christ, therefore, this 7th seal deals with eternity.
Why silence in heaven when this seal was opened? Perhaps it is because this 7th seal take us into the very presence of God after the judgment. Remember
Habakkuk 2:20 ?
20 “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”
The gravity of dealing with the eternal consequences of man’s existence should indeed cause us to pause in silence and reflect on the significance of the 7th seal.
2* And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
3* Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.
4* And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.
The 7 angels in verses two are introduced who will announce the 7 trumpets in a few verses. Here they call attention to the importance of this last announcement from God’s throne.
Another angel comes and offers “much incense” on the altar with the prayers of the saints. Under the Law of Moses priest offered blood sacrifices upon an altar to make atonement for the sins of the people (Ex. 29:11-14). We no longer live under the Law of Moses. We live under the law of Christ which has made every Christian a priest to our God (1 Pet. 2:5). Every Christian has the privilege of approaching God’s throne directly through prayer in order to receive forgiveness of sins. This altar is symbolic of our ability to commune with God through prayer.
Incense is a substance with a sweet smelling fragrance. This tells us that our prayers are a sweet fragrance to God. God desires His people to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). What a wonderful privilege we have to be able to
communicate with the Creator of the Universe.
5* Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Now the final judgment of God comes upon the disobedient. The earth is used as a symbol to represent people who oppose God (cf. Rev. 12:12, 16; 13:11; 16:2). This angel is casting fire upon those who have been unfaithful to God. The thunder and lighting demonstrate that this judgment is coming from God, as these same symbols indicated God’s presence at the Throne scene in chapter four. The earthquake represents the shaking or fear of these people. This is symbolic of the fiery destruction which those who refuse to obey God will suffer for all eternity.
As with all of the other seals, the purpose of opening this seal is to demonstrate things that will absolutely take place. This seventh seal describes the final conclusion of God’s plan for mankind. These events have been set into order because Christ died and ascended to the throne of God, thereby becoming worthy to open the seals of God’s book.
The phrase “peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning” helps us to understand how Revelation is structured. This same phrase is used ton conclude the seventh trumpet and the seventh plague (cf. Rev. 11:19; 16:18). This helps us to understand that these three series are parallel in form. They all cover the same period of time, the Christian dispensation. The first six divisions of each series describe events which take place on this earth, the seventh division describes the time of judgment. In the case of this seventh seal it helps us determine where the vision of the seven seals ends and the vision of the seven trumpets begins.
This seventh seal answers the question which the martyrs under the altar were asking in the 5th seal; “how long, O Lord…” They were told to wait a little while, and then God would bring judgment upon the disobedient.
The Seven Trumpets
6* And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them.
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
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Trumpets were used in the Bible many times to announce great events which were about to occur and to warn of impending danger. At the second coming of Christ we are told:
1 Thess. 4:16
16* For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
These 7 trumpets announce great events which are to take place during the Christian age. These trumpets warn of the dangers in these events. The symbolic meaning of the trumpet demonstrates one difference between the vision of the trumpets and the vision of the seals. A seal signifies events which are absolutely certain to take place. A trumpet warns of an event which we can prepare ourselves against in order to avoid the consequences. For example, if a person is obedient to God and faithful, at the sound of the trumpet of God mentioned in 1 Thess. 4:16, he avoids the consequences of the seventh seal. We have no control over the events described by the seals, but we can and must prepare ourselves to avoid the consequences of the trumpets because we have been warned.
7* ¶ The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.
The first trumpet is sounded and hail and fire and blood are thrown down to earth and 1/3 of the earth is burned up, and 1/3 of the trees are burned up, and all the green grass is burned up.
The key to interpreting this section is the proper understanding of the symbolic use of fraction “1/3”, and the symbolic use of the terms “grass”, “earth,” and “tree.” The use of a fraction does not refer to a numerical fraction, it is symbolic of something else.
In Rev. 9:4 we read:
4* They were told not to hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
This passage (and others) help us to see that the terms “grass,” “earth,” “green thing” all refer to mankind. From our previous study we know that those who have the seal of God on their foreheads are Christians. When the locusts out of the pit were commanded not to hurt the grass or earth or green things we must understand this to be a reference to Christians. The locust could hurt those who “did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” In other words, they could not hurt Christians.
The symbolism here is interesting. Most plants which are alive and growing are green. The “kind” of life that a Christian has that differs from a non-christian is
“spiritual life.” Those who are spiritually alive and growing in Christ would symbolically be “any green thing” in Rev. 9:4.
In Judges 9:7-15 trees are used to symbolize men, in Isaiah 40:6-8 grass is used as a symbol for people. In the New Testament we have:
“For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.”
1 Peter 1:24
“For, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF.”
These symbols are therefore used in Revelation to represent Christians.
The fraction “1/3” here refers to the spiritual part of man’s being. We arrive at this conclusion when we remember that in Rev. 6:8 that the rider of the pale horse had power to take a man’s physical life, or “1/4” part of man, but not his spiritual life.
“Any green thing” represents those who have spiritual life, therefore, “1/3” part of man refers to the spiritual part of man. Man has two parts. He has a physical life and a spiritual life. Physical things of this world are symbolically described in Revelation by the number “4.” The spiritual things are described by the number “3.” If we identify a “part” of anything we use a fraction. Therefore, we understand that the physical “part” of any person would be described by the fraction “1/4” and the spiritual part of any person would be described by the fraction “1/3.”
Since “a third” part us used throughout the trumpet series we conclude that the trumpets refer to things which will effect the spiritual part of man if he does not heed the warnings. The trumpets are sounded to warn us that these things will cause man to lose his spiritual part, or in other words, they describe events taking place during the Christ age that will affect the spiritual part of man.
So here we have the first warning. Something that could, if we heed not the warning, take our spiritual lives. This is a warning, then, specifically directed to Christians.
The hail and fire mingled with blood represent the trials and persecution of this life which Christians must overcome daily. To be mingled with blood shows the severity of these persecutions. Some may be so severe as to cause one to lose his physical life.
Christians need to wake up and listen to this. We must keep a constant watch for our souls. There are all kinds of temptations and trials and persecutions in our world today which can cause Christians to lose their spiritual life. This is the warning of the first trumpet.
1 Cor. 3:13
“each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.”
“so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
Jude 23 tells us that it is the duty of Christians to “save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”
In verse 7 there may be more symbolism intended in the difference between the meaning of the trees and the green grass. A tree represents Christians who are strong and deeply rooted in the faith, which the grass represents weaker Christians who are shallow rooted and, therefore, more susceptible to these persecutions. This is the reason we see all the grass being burned. Those who are not strong enough to overcome the persecutions will lose their spiritual life.
Again, the warning. The spiritual part of man is in danger in these trumpets. Even strong Christians are in danger because of the severity of the persecutions which may come. We must always keep our relationship to God strong, we must be growing in order to keep from being burned up.
8* The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood,
Here again we need to use the symbolism of the Bible to define these terms. Isaiah 60:5 helps us to see that the “sea” is a reference to people. In Rev. 17:1, 15 “many waters” is a reference to masses of people. So here we have a great mountain burning with fire thrown into a mass of people, which causes the spiritual part of these people to die.
In Amos 4:1 the term “mountain” is used to represent a great government of this
world. Here in Revelation we have this mountain burning with fire, representing the persecutions a government is capable of bringing upon the people under its control. This is exactly the situation of the people in the Roman Empire during the time of the writing of Revelation. The government was persecuting and even killing those who were not willing to submit to emperor-worship. This caused those who were not strong enough to lose their faith, which in turn, caused their spiritual side or “1/3” part to die. Throughout history governments have persecuted their people and will continue to do so until Christ returns. This is a warning to the Christian that some governments will persecute you for your convictions, if you are weak you will die.
9* and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed.
Here is the result of the persecution for those not strong enough to endure. The “1/3” of the creatures in the sea that had life represent people who are spiritually-minded but are lost. The “1/3” part of man representing that which is spiritual without necessarily representing a “saved” state. It represents the “spiritually-minded” person. In our world today there are many sincere people who are “spiritually-minded” but who have not necessarily been obedient to God in the manner described in the Bible. They believe that God exists and they are by their own standards trying to please him, but they have never been obedient to him. So those in the “sea had life” must be representative of the masses of people who we would call “spiritually minded” but who have yet to obey the gospel. Those who fall into this class are warned that they may lose their spiritual life because of the persecutions that will come.
The ships here may represent spiritual leaders of the people here on earth. If this is correct then this is a warning that even spiritual leaders may succumb to the persecutions mentioned in verse 8 and lose the spiritual part of their being.