Revelation 8.



The coming great events which overshadow all others are the Translation to Heaven (1 Thess. 4:16, 17) and the Return from Heaven (Rev. 19:11-14). Paul alone treats of the former; John more fully than any of the other New Testament writers unfolds the latter. Now, in the interval between these two, the septenary series of judgments under the Seals, the Trumpets, and the Vials run their course. These divine chastisements increase in severity as we pass from one series to another. The judgments are not contemporaneous but successive. The Trumpets succeed the Seals, and the Vials follow the Trumpets. Strict chronological sequence is observed. The general symbol of the previous prophecy was a Seal; in the second series of judgments it is a Trumpet; in the third it is a Vial or bowl. These respective symbols impress a certain character on the events grouped under them. The Seals were opened in order that the successive parts of God’s revelation of the future might be disclosed, but to faith only the mass would regard the judgments as merely providential. Such things had happened before. But the Trumpets’ loud blast by angels intimates a public dealing with men of an intensely judicial character. These mystic Trumpets sound an alarm throughout the length and breadth of apostate Christendom. The public intervention of God in the guilty and apostate scene is thus intimated. Then in the third general symbol, that of the Vials or bowls poured out, the concentrated wrath of God overwhelms the whole prophetic scene under Heaven. Revelation 16 reveals a series of judgments hitherto unsurpassed in range and severity. During the progress of the Seal judgments the Lamb and His suffering people on earth are prominently introduced, but under the Trumpet judgments the Lamb wholly disappears, and saints are only incidentally noticed, and then as praying.

The prophecy under the first four Trumpets refers to the general state of things, civil and ecclesiastical, of the western Roman empire then revived. Revelation 8:2-13 covers this ground. The recurrence of the expression, third part (twelve times repeated in our chapter, see R.V.), points to the resuscitated power of Rome, the same power which gave its legal sanction to the crucifixion of the Lord and scattered the Jews throughout the earth (see Rev. 12:3, 4). Then the fifth Trumpet, or first Woe judgment (Rev. 8:13), falls on apostate Judaism, and is the subject of Revelation 9:1-11. The sixth Trumpet, or second Woe judgment, deals directly with the guilty and apostate inhabitants of the Roman earth, and is the burden of Revelation 9:12-21. The final blast of the Trumpet, or third Woe, is universal in its effects, and in result reaches on to the end of the kingdom reign of 1000 years, even to “the time of the dead that they should be judged” (Rev. 20:11-15). The momentous issues under the seventh Trumpet are briefly detailed within the compass of four verses, Revelation 11:15-18.

It will be observed that a “third part,” so prominent in chapter 8, is not mentioned under the fifth and seventh Trumpets, but occurs again under the sixth. The omission in the two former is accounted for on the ground that the Roman power does not there come into view, whereas in the latter, i.e., the sixth Trumpet, it is the immediate subject of the Lord’s vengeance. The Trumpets, therefore, begin with Rev. 8:2 and close with Rev. 11:18. Between these, however, an interesting and needful parenthetic portion occurs. This occupies Rev.10, Rev. 11:1-13.

We have before remarked that the Seals, the Trumpets, and the Vials are respectively marked off into groups of four and three. Men in their circumstances and persons are judicially dealt with under the Seals, Trumpets, and Vials as a whole, but in the groups of three the strong arm of God is more distinctly witnessed. The source of all these apocalyptic judgments is God Himself, as the numeral three (divine) intimates. The human causes and instruments of judgment are prominent in the groups of four, just what that numeral speaks of.


(Rev. 8).

Rev. 8:1. — “And when He opened the seventh Seal there was silence in the Heaven about half an hour.” The seven-sealed book, or scroll, seen in the open hand of Jehovah (5:1, 2) has its Seals successively opened by the Lamb. Six of the seals were broken in chapter 6, and now, in the first verse of our chapter, He opens the final one, with the result that the book of God’s counsels respecting the earth lies open before us. The plans, the counsels of our God regarding the vast interests of earth, as also the means and manner by which these counsels will be effected, are no longer a secret. All are disclosed. But why is the seventh Seal separated from the preceding six? Naturally one would suppose that it would have concluded chapter 6. But instead a whole chapter (Rev. 7) comes in between the sixth and seventh Seals, a parenthetic interruption breaking the orderly sequence of events. The sixth Seal (Rev. 6:12-17) announced judgment of such an appalling character that in the universal terror which ensued the fears of men, from the king to the slave, supposed the general horror to be the great day of the wrath of the Lamb. But no, and so ere the seventh Seal is opened, which is preparatory to the infliction of yet further and severer judgments, the veil is drawn aside, and two great millennial companies from amongst Israel and the Gentiles are introduced into the scene, the result of an extensive work of grace carried on even while judgment is desolating the earth (Rev. 7).

“Silence in Heaven”* does not mean that the songs and hallelujahs of the redeemed are silent. The silence must be interpreted in connection with the immediate subject on hand, which is judgment. But, inasmuch as the source of these judgments on earth is the throne set in Heaven, the silence is there. The course of judgment is arrested. There is a pause both as to the announcement and execution of further chastisements. The silence is of brief duration. “Half an hour” simply denotes an exceedingly brief period during which judicial action is suspended. The breaking of the seventh Seal is followed, not by judgment, but by an ominous silence. It is a calm before a storm, like a stillness in nature preceding a tempest. How long the awful suspense lasts we are not informed, but in the meantime we are called to witness an action of an entirely different character from anything which has yet passed before us, and one which fills up the interval of the half an hour, whatever may be the precise length of time thereby indicated.

{* Hengstenberg and some other expositors argue for a silence on earth, and quote in proof Habakkuk 2:20, Zephaniah 1:7, Zechariah 2:13; these passages speak of a silence on earth, whereas our text, which so far as we can judge has no parallel or proof text in the Old Testament, speaks of “silence in Heaven.” We are satisfied that the force of the expression simply denotes a brief pause during which the course of judgment is suspended. This is confirmed by a consideration of two texts, in both of which premonitory intimations of coming judgments are stated in substantially the same words. Under the first text, Rev. 4:5, we have a course of divine inflictions down to the close of chapter 6. Then comes a pause intimating a brief cessation of judgment. Then in the second text, Rev. 8:5, a further and similar intimation of divine chastisements is announced, and these latter take effect under the Trumpets. The silence is in Heaven because the judgments proceed from it.}


Rev. 8:2. — “And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” That the angels here referred to are a distinguished and select number seems evident from the insertion of the definite article, “The seven angels,” as also from the highly honoured place assigned them, “who stand before God.” “The seven” are distinguished from the seven who pour out the Vials (Rev. 15:1). Only of the trumpet angels is a special position (“before God”) predicated.

There are distinctions amongst the angelic hosts. They are distributed into various orders and ranks, but all, from the archangel down to the least, are servants. They have no relationship to God founded on redemption. They are servants, and never rise out of that position, nor do they desire it. The two great characteristics of angel life are unquestioning obedience and activity in service (Ps. 103:20; Heb. 1:7, 14). The “presence angels” is a familiar Jewish thought. They are supposed by some to be identical with the seven Spirits before the throne (Rev. 1:4), and by others the term is regarded as a borrowed expression from the apocryphal book of Tobit. Both are wrong. Why depart from obvious simplicity and force an interpretation for which there is really no adequate reason? What the angel Gabriel said of himself, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God” (Luke 1:19), is here said of these seven presence angels. As to the number, seven, they represent the full power of God in judicial judgment.

2. — “And seven trumpets were given to them.” The place of subjection is ever the place of even the most exalted of God’s creatures; the trumpets were given. Sovereign action is the prerogative alone of the Creator. But why trumpets? No wind instrument was more generally used in the national life of Israel than the trumpet. It convened them in public assembly. Its loud blast summoned them for war, and directed them when to advance and when to retreat. On the promulgation of the law “the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder.” In their solemn feasts the trumpet was largely employed. Its loud warning notes announced the near approach of danger or an enemy. By sound of trumpet the journeys in the wilderness were directed. The year of jubilee, and, in fact, on all important national occasions the trumpet was employed (see Lev. 25:9; Ex. 19:19; Num. 10:2-10; Lev. 23:24, etc.). The circumstances calling for the public interference of God in judgment, as detailed in our portion of the Apocalypse, are somewhat similar to the coming days of Joel 2:1, 2, “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness.” Both Joel and John refer to the blast of the trumpet, intimating that God is about to deal openly and before all in judicial chastisement with the iniquity before Him, a public and loud announcement that He is about to do so. “The seven trumpets” signify a complete and full announcement. The mystic trumpets of the Apocalypse must not be confounded with the literal trumpets of Old Testament times.


Rev. 8:3-5. — “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might give (efficacy) to the prayers of all saints at the golden altar which (was) before the throne. And the smoke of the incense went up with the prayers of the saints, out of the hand of the angel before God. And the angel took the censer, and filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast (it) on the earth: and there were voices, and thunders and lightnings, and an earthquake.” The scene before us is one of profound interest, and cast moreover in the mould of familiar Jewish imagery. “Another angel.” Who is he? We are satisfied that the angel priest is Christ, our great High Priest. The service at the altars proves it, for both the brazen altar and the golden altar are referred to. No mere creature could add efficacy to the prayers of saints, for that could only be effected by One having in Himself independent right and competency. Further, the action recorded at the altars is of a mediatorial character, one between suffering and praying saints on earth and God; and as Christianity knows of but “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), the proof is undeniable that the angel priest is Christ and Christ alone, not a representative person or company, as some expositors understand it. There is a pretty general consensus of thought amongst the early expositors of the Apocalypse in rightly regarding the angel here as meaning Christ to the exclusion of all others. “Another angel” is three times used of Christ in the apocalyptic visions (Rev. 8:3; Rev. 10:1; Rev. 18:1). This title is one which supposes reserve and distance. The appellation “Lamb” is characteristic of the Apocalypse as a whole, and of the Seals in particular, and seems to be the chosen title expressive of Christ’s interest in His saints, as also of their intimacy and nearness to Him. Under the trumpet series of judgments Christ morally retires and invests Himself in angelic title and character. When the saints come distinctly and prominently on to the prophetic scene then the title Lamb appears (see Rev. 7:17; Rev. 14:1, etc.).

3. — “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer.” The reference here is to the altar of burnt-offering which stood in the court of the tabernacle of old. The fire at first miraculously kindled (Lev. 9:24) was to be afterwards fed by the daily, yearly, and other sacrifices. This altar is mentioned six times in the Apocalypse, and simply as “the altar” (Rev.6:9; Rev. 8:3, 5; Rev. 11:1; Rev. 14:18; Rev. 16:7). It is only from Hebrews 9:4 we learn that the censer in use in the yearly day of atonement (Lev. 16) was of gold. The censer was employed to carry the fire from off the brazen altar.

3. — “And much incense was given to him that he might give (efficacy) to the prayers of all saints at the golden altar which (was) before the throne.” The incense employed in the tabernacle service was composed of four ingredients, specified in Exodus 30:34-36. It was a special preparation compounded according to a divine formula. Any unhallowed make, or use of it, was punished with death (vv. 37, 38). No doubt the four precious ingredients, three of which are only named once, set forth the moral beauties and perfections of Christ as witnessed in the four Gospels, but it needed the fire of judgment to draw out the full fragrance of Christ, and this Calvary alone could accomplish. The golden altar, twice referred to in the Apocalypse (Rev. 8:3; Rev. 9:13), stood within the tabernacle in the holy place, right in front of the veil. Blood, the witness of death and judgment, was put upon its four horns yearly (Lev. 16:18, 19), as also on other occasions for atonement (Lev. 4:7, 18). Incense was also burned upon it each morning and evening (Ex. 30:7-10), “a perpetual incense before the Lord.” The deep, deep meaning of the incense is more than tongue can tell or pen delineate. The sweet savour of Christ, what He was, what He did, and what He suffered is set forth by the incense.

Now let us put the various parts of the scene together and seek to understand its true bearing. The whole action is called for by the fact that a large body of suffering saints are on earth during the time of the sounding of the Trumpets, and for them intercession is needed. In an early period, under the fifth Seal, a company of martyrs is beheld. Their souls are under the altar, and they cry and pray (Rev. 6:9). But no priestly intercession is made for them; they need it not. This grace is provided for the living, not for the dead. The prayers of these saints, at the solemn crisis of the world’s history in which their lot is cast, are not recorded. No doubt their general burden will be appeals to God for deliverance from, and judgment on, their ungodly oppressors. Their prayers do not breathe the accents of grace, but rather the reverse.*

{*“The character of the answer determines the nature of the petition that had been offered.”}

Prayer for judgment then will be right and godly in accordance with the character and spirit of the Dispensation, as it would be most unsuitable now and contrary to the spirit of this period of God’s long-suffering mercy. Spiritual prayer at the very best is necessarily imperfect, and so Christ adds His own perfectness in life and death. Thus the smoke of the incense, i.e., the savour of Christ and the prayers of the saints went up together, not out of the golden censer, but “out of the hand of the angel before God,” more intimate, more near surely than “out of the censer.” How prevailing then the prayers of even the weakest saint when accompanied with the sweet savour of God’s beloved One. The Angel (Christ) having gone from the altar of burnt-offering to the altar of incense, and presented the prayers of “all saints” then on earth to God, adding to them the sweet savour of His life and sacrifice, returns to the altar of burnt-offering and fills His now empty censer with fire from off it. But not with incense, for that was on behalf of saints. Judgment, pure judgment, will be meted out to the apostate earth, and of this we have the stern intimation in the forcible act of the angel who “took the censer and filled it from the fire of the altar, and cast (it) on the earth.” A striking intimation of judicial procedure. God is about to punish the earth, and as the altar was the expression of His holiness and righteousness in dealing with the sin of His people of old, so that same holiness and righteousness will search the earth and judge and punish accordingly. The angel’s act is immediately followed by the symbolic signs of almighty power. “There were voices, and thunders and lightnings, and an earthquake,” harbingers of the coming successive outbursts of divine wrath on the earth. “These terms compose a FORMULA OF CATASTROPHE; and the fourfold character here denotes the universality of the catastrophe in respect of the thing affected.”* We have the same divine formula intimating immediate judgment substantially repeated four times (Rev. 4:5; Rev. 8:5; Rev. 11:19; Rev. 16:18). In the first of these references the concentration of coming wrath is limited to these three tokens: “lightnings, and voices, and thunders.” In the second and third references an “earthquake” is added; while in the fourth (Rev. 16:21) we meet with a still further addition! “and great hail.” But in the four texts we have, with slight variation in the order of the terms, “lightnings, and voices, and thunders.”

{*“The Revelation of Jesus Christ by John,” p. 341. — Hooper. }


Rev. 8:6 “And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves that they might sound with their trumpets.” These seven angels do not themselves execute the judgments which they announce. The four judgment angels (Rev. 9:14) are distinguished from the seven trumpet angels. The seven presence angels received their trumpets before the episode of the angel priest’s intercession (v. 2). But the greatness and solemnity of the work on hand is intimated by the signs and tokens of almighty power. Now the angels prepare themselves. There is no hurry, but premonitory signs by Christ, and careful preparation by the angels, certainly indicate the serious nature of the situation, one calling for unsparing judgment.


Rev. 8:7. — “And the first sounded (his) trumpet: and there was hail and fire, mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth; and the third part of the earth was burnt up, and the third part of the trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.” “Hail and fire mingled with blood.” These are not to be understood as literal destructive agencies. They are symbols. The seventh plague in Egypt was one of “hail and fire,” a tempest unexampled in the history of that most ancient of kingdoms (Ex. 9:18-25). The coming judgment here announced will be of a more appalling character, more ruinous and widespread, not one, moreover, effected by the destructive forces of nature, “hail and fire.” The introduction of a third element, not as a separate devastating agency, but the two first named, “mingled with blood”, stamps a peculiar and superhuman character on this judgment. It is one which in its singular combination of forces is entirely outside the domain of nature. The judgment is not of a providential kind, not a literal hail and fire storm. What then do these symbols teach? How are we to read and understand them? On this Scripture is by no means silent.

Hail signifies a sudden, sharp, and overwhelming judgment from above, God the executor of it (see Isa. 28:2, 17; Rev. 11:19; Rev. 16:21). Fire is the expression of God’s wrath. As a symbol it is more largely employed than any other in the Sacred Volume. Thorough, unsparing, agonising judgment is denoted by fire. It has, of course, other significations, but we are only concerned now with its judicial application (see Deut. 32:22; Isa. 33:14; Luke 16:24; Rev. 20:10, 14, 15). Blood signifies death, both physical and moral. In the latter it would assume the form or character of apostasy, i.e., the utter abandonment of revealed truth, all religious profession given up;* for blood as physical death, see Genesis 9:5, 6; Ezekiel 14:19; for blood as moral death, see Acts 2:19, 20; Rev. 6:12; Rev. 16:3-6. Now while the two former symbols may be regarded separately, “hail and fire,” we cannot so treat the third. The “blood” was mingled with those two elements of destruction. Combined they express a truly awful outburst of divine wrath, whoever or whatever the agencies may be to accomplish the divine purpose. The trumpet sounds, the judgment is a public one.

{*Jude 12, “twice dead;” first as dead in sins, second dead by apostasy.}

7 — “And they were cast upon the earth,” thus covering as a subject of judgment precisely the same sphere on which the angel scattered the fire from the altar (v. 5). In both cases (vv. 5 and 7) the term “cast” implies irresistible power behind. That the judgment of the hail and fire with blood is not traceable to natural causes is evident from the fact that they were cast down, not falling from the heavens in an ordinary way, but impelled by an unseen yet powerful arm. The area affected is said to be the earth. But as earth and sea are separately referred to in the symbolism of the Apocalypse we have to inquire what they respectively signify. In Revelation 10 we have a vision of Christ characterised by the insignia of divine majesty. He descends from Heaven to claim the world as a whole. It is His. Significantly, therefore, in the assertion of His universal and sovereign right He plants His right foot on the sea and His left on the earth, thus taking possession of the whole scene under Heaven. Those two parts of the natural creation present a picture of (1) restlessness (sea), and (2) stability (earth). The same symbolic representations in other parts of the Apocalypse, as elsewhere, fix and determine a meaning as precise and full as if the words and not the symbols were used. A symbol brings before the mind a complete picture of what is intended to be conveyed, oftentimes much more forcibly than by the use of a lengthened statement; hence the universality of symbols in the expression of human thought. The earth, then, denotes that part of the world civilised and under constituted authority, fixed and settled government. The sea, on the contrary, represents that portion of the world in disorder, the scene of anarchy and of wild rebellion, without divine and civil government.* The public rejection of God will be quickly followed by the repudiation of civil and magisterial authority, and when lawlessness and impiety have reached their climax then God intervenes in judgment. Of this the prophetic part of the Apocalypse affords a striking witness, as we hope to see in the course of these studies.

{*It has been asserted that the symbolism of the Hebrews was borrowed from Egypt and Assyria, where in both kingdoms the system of representation had attained to a high degree of excellence. But are we to conceive of God borrowing from the pagan nations of antiquity? The thought betrays gross ignorance, and in its conception is thoroughly infidel. The truth is that symbolism is much more ancient than the kingdoms referred to, and is coeval with the existence of the race. Thus in the earliest period revealed (Gen. 2) the symbolic trees of life and of the knowledge of good and evil arrest our attention as being the first symbols presented to men. It is part of the universal language. A symbol presented to the mind conveys in a forcible manner the moral features or characteristics of the thing on hand. Thus a lion, “the lord of the forest,” at once suggests the idea of majesty, of royal power; hence these moral characteristics denoted by the symbol may be applied to Christ (Rev. 5:5), or to the first of the great universal empires (Dan. 7:4). It is not that the lion represents either Christ or the mighty Babylonian empire, but rather the characteristics of the lion in greatness and majesty, and of course these qualities may be applied to persons or objects as the case may be. The symbol represents a certain moral characteristic or idea. It must not be supposed that the frequent use of symbols is a mark of the poverty of language. In fact in every language and amongst all peoples, civilised and barbarian, a representative system of speech is in general use. The language of symbols quickly became incorporated in the religions of the ancient world. “It was the language of the shrine, the oracle, and the temple.” With many invisible realities are more easily conceived of when represented by objects presented to the eye and mind. Our readers will find help in the perusal of “Sacred Symbology,” by John Mills; but especially in an article entitled “Symbols” in vol. 1 of “Notes and Comments on Scripture,” by the late J. N. Darby.}

“The third part of the earth was burnt up,” also the third part of the trees, and all green grass. We now witness the dire results produced by this manifest judgment from Heaven. Those lands on which Christianity has shone so brightly are then given up to judgment. God in His relation to the nations as supreme has, in the time of the Trumpets, been forsaken, and Christianity abandoned. What then remains but the mighty arm of God to be bared in judgment? The destructive symbolic elements were cast upon the earth. The results are threefold.

(1) “The third part of the earth was burnt up.” This is wholly omitted in the Authorised Version, but inserted in the Revised on unimpeachable authority. The western part of the prophetic earth is here designated as the third part.* The revived empire with its personal, persecuting, and blasphemous head, the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8), with its ancient and renowned capital, Rome (Rev. 17:18), will again dominate the earth, but the empire, at least in its most guilty part, the west, will be given up to feel the Lord’s vengeance. Whether the term “burnt up” refers to the desolating ravages of war or other heaven-sent agencies we know not, but that the empire will be wasted and desolated by several combined judgments seems evident.

{*The four universal empires, and there are but four, are represented as metals (Dan. 2) and beasts (Dan. 7). These are Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. The three are expressly named in Scripture by the Hebrew prophet. The fourth, or Roman, is pointed out in Luke 2:1, “There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” Rome was founded 753 B.C., shortly before the ten tribes were taken captive by Shalmaneser. Romulus, its first king, gave name to the city, which was destined to play such an important part in the world’s history. Carthage, the African rival of Rome, was the only power which seemed to check its growing greatness. The African was the elder of the two, and of great wealth. But Ham had to succumb to Japheth. Rome increased in power and in territorial extent till the known world lay at her feet (Luke 2:1). Says Gibbon: “The empire of the Romans filled the world.” After the conquest of Greece the early virtues of the Roman character became impaired and degeneration set in. Integrity and justice, once so characteristic of early Rome, were now wantonly sacrificed and trampled under foot, while personal ambition, instead of care for the State and its interests, became the distinguishing features of its emperors and generals. After the empire had existed for more than five hundred years, undivided and universal, its dismemberment in the fourth and fifth centuries took place. It ceased to exist. The rise of the papacy and decline of the empire were coeval and connected events. The supremacy of the See of Rome dates from the fourth century. The present European situation, with its numerous and conflicting interests, is the result really of the complete break up of the once undivided empire of the Caesars. The pen of the historian has traced the history of Rome from its rise, 753 B.C., till its inglorious fall, A.D. 476, but there it stops. God lifts the veil and shows the future of the now defunct empire. The Hebrew prophet (Dan. 2; 7) and the Christian apostle (Rev. 17; 19) clearly show that the empire will be revived and shown to be in existence at the Coming of the Lord in power. Its utter destruction by the Lord in Person will be immediately succeeded by the millennial and universal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, which will surpass in greatness, character, and in territorial extent every power on earth since the world began (Dan. 7:26, 27).}

(2) “The third part of the trees was burnt up.” Here the stern hand of judgment reaches out to the great and distinguished; to men in the haughtiness of pride and position. Destruction overtakes all such, all, of course, within the sphere contemplated in the prophecy. A tree is an apt and familiar figure of human greatness; of pride and of high position amongst men (Ezek. 31; Dan. 4:4-27; Judges 9:8-15, etc.).

(3) “All green grass was burnt up.” There is no limitation here, no “third part,” or even “fourth part,” as under the fourth Seal (Rev. 6:8). Grass refers to the people of Israel (Isa. 40:7); the human race is also spoken of as grass (1 Peter 1:24). “Green grass” would naturally signify a highly prosperous condition of things amongst the inhabitants of the empire generally. The association of trees and grass, as in Revelation 9:4 and here also, would intimate judgment upon all, high and low, involving the utter destruction of all their happy surroundings. The condition indicated by the “green grass burnt up” points to a general scene of desolation. What awful days are in store for these countries now so highly blest and favoured, but then in retributive justice given up to the stern judgment of God.


Rev. 8:8, 9. — “And the second angel sounded (his) trumpet: and as a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea; and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, which had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.” “A great mountain burning with fire.” Scripture itself gives the force of the figure. The mighty Babylonian monarchy is thus spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 51:25), “Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the Lord, which destroyest all the earth; and I will stretch out Mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain.” Jehovah here threatens the Chaldean kingdom — apparently so firmly established in its might and greatness as to defy an overthrow — with consuming judgment, a “burnt mountain.” Again, the stone which no human hand or tool had touched falls with crushing effect upon the feet of the image, the figure of Gentile power, and then becomes “a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2). The world-wide dominion of the Son of Man is thus set forth. A mountain as a symbol represents a kingdom (Isa. 2:2; Zech. 4:7; Jer. 51:25) or a firmly established power (Ps. 46:2; Rev. 6:14; Rev. 16:20). The abstract idea, important to lay hold of in these prophetic symbols, is that of a strong, consolidated, established power, and this power itself the subject of God’s governmental vengeance, for the Seer saw it burning with fire, becoming in the divine hand the instrument of judgment upon the heathen. The weeping prophet, Jeremiah, exactly defines the force and value of the imagery in our text (Jer. 51:25).

8. — “Was cast into the sea.” In the previous Trumpet (v. 7) the earth was the scene of judgment; here it is the sea. The earth is the Roman world in general, the third part being the western portion of the empire. The sea sets forth a state of rebellion against constituted authority; of peoples in a condition of unrest, and consequently outside the limits of the Roman world. Within this latter, in the past as in the future, authority and government are upheld. The ever-restless sea (Isa. 57:20; Dan. 7:2, 3; Rev. 13:1; Rev. 18:21) is here the chosen figure to denote the peoples of the earth in dire anarchy, owing to the want of a strong controlling power or firm hand. Civil and governmental authority are ordained of God (Rom. 13:1). The state of things in the future amongst the nations outside the territorial limits of the revived Roman power may be compared to the condition of France during the reign of terror in the eighteenth century — a nation without God, without religion, and with but the semblance of government, controlled by the wild passions of the mob, the devil’s playground in Europe. The prophetic sea, therefore, represents the general condition of the nations without civil and spiritual government. Into the seething masses of mankind, of heathenism, this burning power is cast. We now witness the dire results produced. These are threefold, as in the first trumpet.

(1) “The third part of the sea became blood.” Does blood here symbolize a violent natural death, or does it refer to the spiritual death of apostasy? In our judgment these two forms of death are here combined. Those nations in political or in outward relation to the dominant power of the Roman empire are destroyed. The destruction of life amongst the Gentiles, in association with the guiltiest of the four universal empires, is what the symbol sets forth. Spiritual and physical death is the sure result of any connection with the apostate, blaspheming, and persecuting power of Rome.

(2) “The third part of the creatures which were in the sea, which had life, died.” That part of the world not brought into orderly subjection to constituted authority, but in external relation to the empire, is next seen in vision, as visited in judgment. Persons, and not peoples or nations in general, as in the first judgment, are in question. The term “creatures” would imply as much. Even in heathenism varying measures of responsibility and commensurate degrees of guilt exist. “The third part,” i.e., the worst is before us in this series of divine chastisements. “The third part of the creatures which were in the sea, which had life, died.” The interpretation of the Seals is a simple matter compared to that of the Trumpets. In the latter there is a purposed mysteriousness in the symbols employed which makes a minute examination somewhat difficult. Here, however, with Rev. 2:23 and Rev. 3:1 before us we are on firm ground. Moral, spiritual death is the undoubted force of the judgment here executed. Death towards God, towards principles of truth and righteousness, and, in fact, death viewed morally in its widest aspect and character.

(3) “The third part of the ships were destroyed.” Now this destructive power, whether a nation or a system, violently thrown into the unformed masses of mankind not only works awful destruction, physical and moral, on peoples and persons, it wrecks also the commerce and means of communication with distant countries. “The third part of the ships were destroyed.” But the tale of judgment is not yet told. The darkness thickens as the night wears on. Horror succeeds horror. Oh that Christendom would wake up to the stern reality that the Judge is at the door!


Rev. 8:10, 11. — “And the third angel sounded (his) trumpet: and there fell out of the Heaven a great star, burning as a torch, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood; and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many of the men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.” At the blast of the trumpets the four restraining angels let loose the four winds of the earth, the providential agencies of judgment (Rev. 7:1). The dark cloud of vengeance upon a guilty scene is lifted for a brief space, during which God in sovereign grace works amongst Israel and the Gentiles (Rev. 7). Then under the Trumpets the orderly course of judgment is resumed. The previous blasts announced judgments of the most appalling character on the earth and on the sea: the former the scene of governmental order, and where, too, God had been more or less professedly owned; the latter the sphere where the forces of anarchy and the will of man reigned supreme, which is ever to the denial of spiritual and civil authority. This Trumpet intimates a judgment equal in terrible severity, and in some respects even more awful than the preceding ones. “There fell out of the Heaven a great star.” The Heaven is the source of authority; it is a definitely fixed position; hence the introduction of the article “the Heaven.” All spiritual, civil, and political authority has its source above. “The heavens do rule ” (Dan. 4:26). Under the two preceding trumpets the instruments of judgment were “cast” upon the earth and sea respectively, but from whence we are not informed. Here this apostate dignitary “fell” out of the Heaven.* The word “cast” would imply the exercise of irresistible power on the part of the unseen actor, as also the violence of the judgment; whereas “fell,” as also in Revelation 9:1, would rather point to a sudden, unexpected downfall. The “star” as a symbol is one of frequent occurrence in the Apocalypse, and denotes a ruler, or one occupying a place of influence and position in responsibility to God (Rev. 12:1-4; Rev. 6:13, etc.). Supremacy is denoted by the sun; derived and subordinate authority is figured by the moon; while stars point to lesser authorities. This “great star” evidently symbolizes a distinguished ruler responsible as set in the moral firmament to give light in the then dark night of the world’s history, but he is an apostate personage, one under the immediate judgment of God, “burning as a torch;” in this respect like the “great mountain burning with fire.” The epithet “great” is attached to the mountain, and also to the star; only in the former a corporate power or system is referred to, whereas in the latter an exalted individual is meant. Who this degraded and apostate person is we are not informed. Some regard the great fallen star as denoting the personal Antichrist.** But that does not amount to more than conjecture. The Antichrist plays an important part in the coming crisis, as we shall see in subsequent studies.

{*The “great star” of Rev. 8:10 must not be confounded with the falling star of Rev. 9:1. Both are spiritual rulers, viewed as morally fallen from their high position. They are, however, distinct personages.

**The symbolic name of the star (v. 11) gives no indication of the person referred to, but rather of the baneful influence exercised.}

10. — “It fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters.” Waters in general signify peoples (Rev. 17:15; Isa. 17:12, 13); the sea points to a state of commotion, of unrest amongst those peoples (Isa. 57:20; Dan, 7:3); floods, fulness of earthly blessings (Isa. 44:3), as also earthly calamities (Amos 8:8); rivers, the ordinary life of a nation or people characterised by certain principles (Ezek. 29:3; Isa. 18:2); fountains, the sources of the principles and influences which act upon the life of a nation (Joel 3:18; Jer. 6:7).

Rev. 8:11. — “The name of the star is called Wormwood; and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many of the men died, because they were made bitter.” The name “Wormwood” is significant of character. Many of the older expositors regard the personage here as Satan, but, as has already been remarked, we have no means to identify the person by name. The geographical area affected is the “third part.” The fountains, the sources of national life, are poisoned. All under the withering influences of this fallen being partake of his character, “Wormwood.” Evidently there is a reference to that interesting incident in Israel’s history detailed in Exodus 15:22-25. There the bitter waters were made sweet; here the sweet waters are made bitter. National life and character are corrupted. A judicial dealing of an intensely solemn character overtakes a third part of the nations; their springs of action, their motives, principles, and moral life are poisoned, with the result that “many” die. It is not physical but moral death that is in question, truly more awful than the former. “When you look at these bitter ingredients infused into the waters by the fall of this great star, the wonder is not that many died, but that any lived.”*

{*“Lectures on the Revelation.” p. 181. — Ramsay.}


Rev. 8:12. — “And the fourth angel sounded (his) trumpet: and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so that the third part of them should be darkened, and that the day should not appear (for) the third part of it, and the night the same.” The sun, moon, and stars collectively symbolize the whole governing body, from the supreme head down to all lesser authorities — a complete system of government in all its parts. Under the sixth Seal (Rev. 6:12, 13) the same symbols are presented to express an utter collapse of all governing authority on earth. The might of man is broken. Every power under Heaven is overthrown. Long established governments, and all dependent power and authority fall in the universal crash. There, however, the disruption of the whole social fabric, and the overthrow of every seat of power, is in no wise restricted. The only limitation under the Seals is a “fourth part,” which occurs but once (Rev. 6:8). Here under the fourth Trumpet the judgment and its effects extend to the “third part” of the prophetic scene, the western part of the revived empire. In this connection the term “third part” occurs five times (v. 12). The effect of this judgment is that moral darkness, like a funeral pall, settles down upon the empire.


Rev. 8:13. — “And I saw, and I heard an eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to them that dwell upon the earth, for the remaining voices of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound.” “I saw and I heard,” both eye and ear were engaged, thus intimating the rapt attention and interest of the Seer in the events which passed before him in the vision. The Authorised Version reads “angel,” but we have substituted “eagle” on decisive and competent authority. There is a mission entrusted to a flying angel (Rev. 14:6), as also one, but of a different character, to a flying eagle (Rev. 8:13). Mid-heaven, or the firmament, is the sphere traversed by both, so that they could scan the earth from its centre to its remotest bounds. The former is a messenger of mercy, this latter is a herald of judgment. The triple cry of “woe” finds its fitting announcement by the eagle. In its rapid and lofty flight across the meridian sky it aloud proclaims the coming doom of the christianised portion of the earth, of those who proudly rejected the “heavenly calling,” of whom Paul writes, “Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:19). A special class is here singled out from earth’s inhabitants, a moral class, spoken of as those “that dwell upon the earth,” and twice previously referred to (Rev. 3:10; Rev. 6:10). On these apostates, the worst in these dark and evil times, direct and irremediable judgment is publicly and loudly announced. A more fitting symbol could not be employed than an eagle in its aerial flight across the heaven, scanning from afar its prey. The eagle is the harbinger of approaching judgment (see Deut. 28:49; Jer. 48:40; Matt. 24:28). The four preceding judgments were of a general character, but in those to come the climax of horror is reached; hence this preliminary announcement.*

{*“Woe, specially on those who had their settled place on earth, in contrast with the heavenly calling, and who were unawakened and unmoved by the judgments on the earth, but cling to it as their home in spite of all is then announced. Threefold woe! The term ‘dwellers on,’ or ‘inhabiters of,’ the earth has not yet been used, save in the promise to Philadelphia and the claims of the souls under the altar, for both of these were in contrast with such. After all these dealings of God, they are a distinct and manifested class, and spoken of in what passes on the earth as such. Against this perversely unbelieving class the earthly judgments of God are now directed; the first against the Jews, the second against the inhabitants of the Roman earth, the last universal.” — “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible,” vol. 5, p. 605, Morrish ed.}