Seventh Seal. Preparation for the Seven Trumpets. The First Four and the Consequent Plagues.
1. was—Greek, "came to pass";
"began to be."
silence in heaven about … half an
hour—The last seal having been broken open, the book of God's
eternal plan of redemption is opened for the Lamb to read to the
blessed ones in heaven. The half hour's silence contrasts with
the previous jubilant songs of the great multitude, taken up by
the angels (Re 7:9-11).
It is the solemn introduction to the employments and enjoyments of the
eternal Sabbath-rest of the people of God, commencing with the Lamb's
reading the book heretofore sealed up, and which we cannot know till
then. In Re
10:4, similarly at the eve of
the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when the seven thunders uttered
their voices, John is forbidden to write them. The seventh trumpet
11:15-19) winds up God's vast
plan of providence and grace in redemption, just as the seventh seal
brings it to the same consummation. So also the seventh vial, Re 16:17. Not that the seven seals, the
seven trumpets, and the seven vials, though parallel, are repetitions.
They each trace the course of divine action up to the grand
consummation in which they all meet, under a different aspect.
Thunders, lightnings, an earthquake, and voices close the
seven thunders and the seven seals alike (compare Re 8:5, with Re
11:19). Compare at the
seventh vial, the voices, thunders, lightnings, and earthquake, Re 16:18. The half-hour silence is
the brief pause GIVEN TO John between
the preceding vision and the following one, implying, on the one hand,
the solemn introduction to the eternal sabbatism which is to follow the
seventh seal; and, on the other, the silence which continued during the
incense-accompanied prayers which usher in the first of the seven
trumpets (Re 8:3-5).
In the Jewish temple, musical instruments and singing resounded during
the whole time of the offering of the sacrifices, which formed the
first part of the service. But at the offering of incense, solemn
silence was kept ("My soul waiteth upon God," Ps 62:1; "is silent," Margin; Ps 65:1, Margin), the people
praying secretly all the time. The half-hour stillness implies,
too, the earnest adoring expectation with which the blessed spirits and
the angels await the succeeding unfolding of God's judgments. A
short space is implied; for even an hour is so used
(Re 17:12; 18:10, 19).
2. the seven angels—Compare the
apocryphal Tobit 12:15, "I am Raphael, one of the seven holy
angels which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out
before the glory of the Holy One." Compare Lu 1:19, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the
presence of God."
seven trumpets—These come in during
the time while the martyrs rest until their fellow servants also,
that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled; for it is
the inhabiters of the earth on whom the judgments fall, on whom
also the martyrs prayed that they should fall (Re 6:10). All the ungodly, and not merely
some one portion of them, are meant, all the opponents and obstacles in
the way of the kingdom of Christ and His saints, as is proved by Re 11:15,
18, end, at the close of the
seven trumpets. The Revelation becomes more special only as it advances
farther (Re 13:1-18; 16:10; 17:18). By the seven trumpets the world
kingdoms are overturned to make way for Christ's universal kingdom. The
first four are connected together; and the last three, which alone have
Woe, woe, woe (Re 8:7-13).
3. another angel—not Christ, as many
think; for He, in Revelation, is always designated by one of His proper
titles; though, doubtless, He is the only true High Priest, the Angel
of the Covenant, standing before the golden altar of incense, and
there, as Mediator, offering up His people's prayers, rendered
acceptable before God through the incense of His merit. Here the angel
acts merely as a ministering spirit (Heb 1:4), just as the twenty-four elders have
vials full of odors, or incense, which are the prayers of
saints (Re 5:8), and
which they present before the Lamb. How precisely their ministry, in
perfuming the prayers of the saints and offering them on the altar of
incense, is exercised, we know not, but we do know they are not to be
prayed TO. If we send an offering of
tribute to the king, the king's messenger is not allowed to appropriate
what is due to the king alone.
there was given unto him—The angel
does not provide the incense; it is given to him by Christ,
whose meritorious obedience and death are the incense, rendering the
saints' prayers well pleasing to God. It is not the saints who give the
angel the incense; nor are their prayers identified with the incense;
nor do they offer their prayers to him. Christ alone is the Mediator
through whom, and to whom, prayer is to be offered.
offer it with the prayers—rather as
Greek, "give it TO the
prayers," so rendering them efficacious as a sweet-smelling
savor to God. Christ's merits alone can thus incense our
prayers, though the angelic ministry be employed to attach this incense
to the prayers. The saints' praying on earth, and the angel's incensing
in heaven, are simultaneous.
all saints—The prayers both of the
saints in the heavenly rest, and of those militant on earth. The
martyrs' cry is the foremost, and brings down the ensuing
golden altar—antitype to the
4. the smoke … which came with the
prayers … ascended up—rather, "the smoke of the incense
FOR (or 'given TO': 'given' being understood from Re 8:3) the prayers of the saints ascended up,
out of the angel's hand, in the presence of Gods" The angel merely
burns the incense given him by Christ the High Priest, so that its
smoke blends with the ascending prayers of the saints. The saints
themselves are priests; and the angels in this priestly ministration
are but their fellow servants (Re 19:10).
5. cast it into the earth—that is,
unto the earth: the hot coals off the altar cast on the earth,
symbolize God's fiery judgments about to descend on the Church's foes
in answer to the saints' incense-perfumed prayers which have just
ascended before God, and those of the martyrs. How marvellous the power
of the saints' prayers!
there were—"there took place," or
voices, and thunderings, and
lightnings—B places the "voices" after "thunderings." A
places it after "lightnings."
6. sound—blow the trumpets.
7. The common feature of the first four
trumpets is, the judgments under them affect natural objects,
the accessories of life, the earth, trees, grass, the sea, rivers,
fountains, the light of the sun, moon, and stars. The last three, the
woe-trumpets (Re 8:13),
affect men's life with pain, death, and hell. The language is evidently
drawn from the plagues of Egypt, five or six out of the ten exactly
corresponding: the hail, the fire (Ex 9:24), the WATER turned to blood (Ex 7:19), the darkness (Ex 10:21), the locusts (Ex 10:12), and perhaps the death (Re 9:18). Judicial retribution in kind
characterizes the inflictions of the first four, those elements which
had been abused punishing their abusers.
mingled with—A, B, and Vulgate
read, Greek, "… IN blood."
So in the case of the second and third vials (Re 16:3, 4).
upon the earth—Greek,
"unto the earth." A, B, Vulgate, and Syriac add,
"And the third of the earth was burnt up." So under the third trumpet,
the third of the rivers is affected: also, under the sixth
trumpet, the third part of men are killed. In Zec 13:8, 9 this tripartite division appears,
but the proportions reversed, two parts killed, only a third preserved.
Here, vice versa, two-thirds escape, one-third is smitten. The fire was
the predominant element.
all green grass—no longer a third, but
all is burnt up.
8. as it were—not literally a mountain:
a mountain-like burning mass. There is a plain allusion to Jer 51:25; Am
third part of the sea became blood—In
the parallel second vial, the whole sea (not merely a
third) becomes blood. The overthrow of Jericho, the type of
the Antichristian Babylon, after which Israel, under Joshua (the same
name as Jesus), victoriously took possession of Canaan, the type
of Christ's and His people's kingdom, is perhaps alluded to in the
SEVEN trumpets, which end in the
overthrow of all Christ's foes, and the setting up of His kingdom. On
the seventh day, at the seventh time, when the
seven priests blew the seven ram's horn trumpets, the
people shouted, and the walls fell flat: and then ensued the
blood-shedding of the foe. A mountain-like fiery mass would not
naturally change water into blood; nor would the third part of
ships be thereby destroyed.
9. The symbolical interpreters take the
ships here to be churches. For the Greek here for
ships is not the common one, but that used in the Gospels of the
apostolic vessel in which Christ taught: and the first churches were in
the shape of an inverted ship: and the Greek for
destroyed is also used of heretical corruptings (1Ti 6:5).
10. a lamp—a torch.
11. The symbolizers interpret the star
fallen from heaven as a chief minister (Arius, according to Bullinger, Bengel,
and others; or some future false teacher, if, as is more likely, the
event be still future) falling from his high place in the Church, and
instead of shining with heavenly light as a star, becoming a
torch lit with earthly fire and smouldering with smoke. And "wormwood,"
though medicinal in some cases, if used as ordinary water would not
only be disagreeable to the taste, but also fatal to life: so
"heretical wormwood changes the sweet Siloas of Scripture into deadly
Marahs" [Wordsworth]. Contrast the
converse change of bitter Marah water into sweet, Ex 15:23. Alford
gives as an illustration in a physical point of view, the conversion of
water into firewater or ardent spirits, which may yet go
on to destroy even as many as a third of the ungodly in the latter
12. third part—not a total
obscuration as in the sixth seal (Re 6:12, 13). This partial obscuration,
therefore, comes between the prayers of the martyrs under the fifth
seal, and the last overwhelming judgments on the ungodly under the
sixth seal, at the eve of Christ's coming.
the night likewise—withdrew a third
part of the light which the bright Eastern moon and stars ordinarily
13. an angel—A, B, Vulgate,
Syriac, and Coptic read for "angel," which is supported by
none of the oldest manuscripts, "an eagle": the symbol of judgment
descending fatally from on high; the king of birds pouncing on the
prey. Compare this fourth trumpet and the flying eagle with the
fourth seal introduced by the fourth living creature, "like a flying
eagle," Re 4:7; 6:7, 8: the aspect of Jesus as presented by the
fourth Evangelist. John is compared in the cherubim (according
to the primitive interpretation) to a flying eagle: Christ's divine
majesty in this similitude is set forth in the Gospel according to
John, His judicial visitations in the Revelation of John.
Contrast "another angel," or messenger, with "the everlasting
through the midst of
heaven—Greek, "in the mid-heaven," that is, in the
part of the sky where the sun reaches the meridian: in such a
position as that the eagle is an object conspicuous to all.
the inhabiters of the earth—the
ungodly, the "men of the world," whose "portion is in this life," upon
whom the martyrs had prayed that their blood might be avenged (Re 6:10). Not that they sought personal
revenge, but their zeal was for the honor of God against the foes of
God and His Church.
the other—Greek, "the