Introduction to the Trumpets
Revelation 8:2
Trumpets, a puzzling introduction

   "And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound." (Rev. 8:1-6).
   This is followed, in the text, by the sounding of the trumpets. "The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood. . . ." (Rev. 8:7).

Translation Note

The Greek text for verse 5, "And the angel took. . . ." has only the first "it." The text does not specify that both censer and fire were cast down. Thus we may more easily see the fire cast to the earth without the censer. This harmonizes with the scene in Ezekiel following the judgment of chapter 9 0805ez. And the censer would naturally remain in the sanctuary in heaven 

   In seeking to understand verses 1 to 5, two problems present themselves: 1) From the seventh seal in verse 1, we move into angels being given trumpets. There is only a brief transition, "I saw," and no apparent connection. 2) The throwing down of the fire seems out of place here. It occurs, in the text, before the blowing of the trumpets whereas it would seem more appropriate for it to follow them as the pouring out of God's wrath, the end to which they warn.
   Looking at three structural patterns often used in the book of Revelation will help us understand.
In one structure, a new general topic is developed from the conclusion or a final element of the preceding one. 0401a. Thus we may expect the trumpet calls of the next four chapters to develop from the silence in heaven. This feature is not as strong in this case as in others, but there is a relationship, as we will see.
A more significant structure is similar to the first one. In it a topic is introduced by a brief view of a situation, then developed by an expanded view which generally provides more and different information 0100i&e. 1303b. Verses 1 to 5 here form an introductory block setting the stage for the trumpet calls.
A third structure is the chiasm 0100ch. This introduction is in the chiastic pattern, confirming that it is a unit. There are five blocks of text. The first and fifth each have two lines. Matching blocks are shown by their degree of indentation.

   The structure highlights several comparisons. At its heart, is the ministry of Christ who is priest in the sanctuary of heaven. The silence experienced by the righteous is compared to the noise experienced by the wicked. We will continue to discover what the passage means.

Silence and noise

   "And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came. . . . And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound." (Rev. 8:1-6).
   We have discussed the meaning of silence in heaven (See on verse 1). It is the time of Jacob's trouble when the righteous long for the assurance that all is well with their souls. It is the final work of their sealing. (The lightning photo is from Carney, Kansas and is copyrighted by the photographer.)
    Just as silence comes at the end of the seals, we find noise at the end of the trumpet call:. "And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. . . . And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple, the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail." (Rev 11:15, 19). The noise and lightning from the censer fire here in chapter 8 is thus a prediction of what is coming at the time of the last trumpet. It shows the importance of the trumpet calls which we will shortly read about.
    When we get to chapter 11 we will have opportunity to look closely at the call of the seventh trumpet. Here we notice that the ark of the "testament" was seen. The testament is the ten commandments written on tables of stone. It is significant thought that, when Christ takes over the kingdom at the end of time, the testament will not only be still important. It will be as God wrote it, and will provide a standard for condemning the wicked.
   Before God spoke the commandments, the trumpet sounded at Sinai. "And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount [the part below it]. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." (Ex. 19:16-18).

The angel with an incense burner

   Here again is the introductory chiasm. Let's notice the inner three blocks.

   As mentioned before, the keystone block (verse 4) indicates the ministry of Christ in the sanctuary in heaven. We can learn about the sanctuary in heaven from the one established on earth. (Heb. 8:5). The sanctuary teaches about Christ's ministry (Ps. 77:13: Heb. 8:1, 2) and helps us understand the passage we are studying.
   Christ adds incense to the fire to represent the sweetness of His own perfect life. His merits are thus added to our prayers making them acceptable before the Father as they ascend, like smoke, to the throne in heaven.
   The sanctuary has two rooms, the holy place and the most holy place. Christ ministers in the holy place like the ordinary priest did throughout the sanctuary year. During the final years before the end of our time on earth, He ministers in the most holy place the way the high priest did on the Day of Atonement near the end of the sanctuary year. This second ministry represents the judgment of spiritual Israel (those, today, who profess Christ, the lamb of Calvary). We saw it earlier as the preadvent judgment.
Sanctuary diagram The most holy place with the ark is the smaller room on the left (west). The holy place, with the altar of incense, colored gold, is on the right. The altar of burnt offering is shown by a square outside the tent, in the courtyard.

   I have shown the second and fourth blocks in two lines each. Here is the first pair.

    Angel with censer goes to altar, and (3a)
    is given much incense (3b)

    This is Christ's special work for the righteous shortly before they experience the time of silence. He began as our intercessor after His sacrifice on Calvary (which is represented by the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard (the earth). Only recently, near the end of time, has He entered the second phase of ministry in the most holy place seen here as the time of "much incense." In the symbolism of the sanctuary, each time the congregation sinned and realized it and repented, a bull (representing Christ) was slain. Blood from it was taken into the holy place and sprinkled at the altar of incense (or the golden altar). This altar was a link to the ark which was concealed behind the veil, in the most holy place le0413ff.
    On the day of atonement, a special offering was made and incense was burned. This is what we see here in chapter 8. Note the description in the book of Leviticus:
   "And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:" (Lev. 16:12, 13)

Seven angels before God

   ^   And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. (Rev. 8:2)

   In part, the trumpet calls are introduced by the breaking of the seventh seal. The sealed scroll had been received from the One on the throne. "And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal. . . ." (Rev. 4:5, 6).
   We identified the seven spirits as the Holy Spirit 0405b. What do we know about the angels associated with them?
   The first and last parts of our chiasm are double blocks, as you can see:  silence, trumpet angels, then  noise, trumpet angels. Do the angels somehow receive trumpets as a result of the silence? No, but likely in preparation for it. As I see it, those who receive the latter rain de1114, jl0223 are sealed before others. They then spread the light of the powerful angel of 18:1, witnessing to those who have not had opportunity to hear the full message of salvation. See table.
   We can view the angels here as messengers (the same word in Greek, aggelos). We saw each angel of the seven churches as the group of God's faithful people the particular church epoch 0120. We may likewise see the seven trumpet angels as groups of faithful humans who communicate truth relevant for their time. In chapter 14, the three angels are, in the same way, messengers of light. The giving of trumpets in our verse is apparently drawn from the story of Gideon.
   "And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man's hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. . . . And the three hundred blew the trumpets, and the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled. . . . (Judges 7:16, 22).
   As you remember, the Lord had tested the army and these 300 out of 10,000 men had shown their commitment by how they drank water from the brook. (verses 4, 5).  For the end-time trumpet soundings, we see that the faithful ones who sound their trumpets will communicate light like the 300 who uncovered their torches.

The trumpets, significance and relation to the plagues

   ^   And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. (Rev. 8:2)

   One cannot avoid noticing that the trumpets are described very much like the plagues. In 15:7 we read, "And one of the four beasts [living ones] gave unto the seven angels seven golden vials full of the wrath of God. . . . " Are these simply two accounts showing the same set of events, perhaps from a different viewpoint? At the risk of oversimplification, we will sketch the identifies of the two series.
Trumpet calls
8:7  Hail, blood ... burning 16:2  on earth sores for beast & image worshippers
8  Burning mountain into sea - as blood sea as blood, death
10  Star falls - water poisoned rivers as blood 
12  Sun, moon, stars darkened sun  fire, heat
9:1  Locusts for 5 mo. 10  seat of beast  darkness, pain
13  Four angels released 12  river Euphrates  dried up for kings
11:15  God takes power 17  voice from heaven  It is finished

   The trumpet calls are significantly different from the plagues in a way not shown in the chart. They result in curses on "a third" of the involved trees, sea, waters, and so on. No such limitations are mentioned for the plagues.

Read the following passages about trumpets to look for principles.
   ". . . When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head." (Ezek. 33:2-4).
   "Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand. . . . Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. . . . Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet." (Joel 2:1, 12, 15, 16).
    One more source for symbolism is the conquest of Jericho which we will look at soon.

   Trumpets were also used for some other occasions, but these passages are significant to the trumpets in Revelation. They were to warn the people of danger and, in Joel, they warn about the day of the Lord.

The big picture
   I understand the trumpet calls to be warnings about the devastation of seven last plagues, which Joel calls "the day of the Lord." I also believe them to picture apostasy through the New Testament era to our day and beyond, although this has yet to be demonstrated.

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