A Commentary on Revelation Chapter 8
INTRODUCTION TO REVELATION CHAPTER 8
All of these trumpets tell of war. The successive invasions of the Roman Empire under Alaric, Genseric, Attila, and Odacer are vividly portrayed on the canvas of history. The 1st. was Alaric, king of the Goths (A.D. 395-410). Consider the devastation that was caused by Alaric. The horrors of war cause the trees and green grass to be burned up. The 2nd. Invasion was by Genseric, king of the Vandals (A.D. 423-468). A great mountain, symbol of some kingdom-burning out of control is cast into the sea; the waves are dyed red with blood. The Vandals sail into the Tiber and attack Rome from the sea. The 3rd. trumpet sounds and a star falls from heaven. The rivers and waters are smitten. On the banks of rivers the chief cities of his world have been located. In (A.D. 433-455) Attila, the king of the Huns, invaded the Roman Empire. He was like a meteor streaking across the sky leaving destruction in his way. He is soon burned out. He was styled “the scourge of God.” The 4th. Trumpet sounds and a third part of the sun, moon, and stars are smitten. This must represent political overthrow. The final conquest of Rome came at the hands of Odoacer, king of the Huruli (A.D. 476-490). Rome had not seen an enemy in a thousand years. The Roman senate goes down. It was a time of political upheaval. The winds of war have been released upon the empire.
EXPOSITION ON REVELATION CHAPTER 8
1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
A brief period. A state of anxious suspense. Absence of sound. The calm before the storm. The hush before the rush of battle. The quiet that precedes and presages the awful play of the stormy elements.
2 And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.
These seven angels are poised with trumpets in hand to signal events that are to happen. In the Old Testament trumpets were used to signal that God’s people were to go to Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:20). It was to sound on the l0th day of the seventh month in the year of jubilee (Lev. 25:9). For the calling of the assembly and the journeying of the camp (Num. 10:2). Here, the trumpets will signal a series of events.
3 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 the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.
No particular angel is named. He is to offer the prayers of saints to our God. This was written to encourage Christians of all times to pray–even in times when God is sounding a trumpet of judgment upon certain people.
4 The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
Our God hears these prayers. The judgments constituted in the visions are an answer to them. Recall what the souls under the altar were crying out for in Rev 6:10:
They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”
5 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.
All of this is prefatory to the ominous events that are to happen. The censer is hurled to the earth, thus showing that the judgments of God would be upon mankind. Great events were signaled in this fashion. Compare what happened at Mt. Sinai:
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. EXO 19:16-19
6 Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.
The deliberation has now ended. All preparation have been made and the events are about to happen. The Prophet Joel in vivid language describes an awful calamity which was to befall Israel:
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand.” Joel 2:1
7 The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon 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.
Hail–Fire–Blood. The scene must be one of awful destruction. The three terms must mean devastation of some kind. Note also that there is significance attached to the word “third part.” Gibbon writes,
From the time of Charlemagne to that of the crusades, the world, (for I overlook the monarchy of China) was occupied by three great empires, or nations. The Greeks, the Saracens (Arabians) and the Franks (Latins). Gibbon, Ch 43
The first four angels desolate one third (Latin); the fifth angel lets loose the Saracen invasion and conquers the Saracen part of the world; the sixth angel bound beyond the Euphrates pours its myriads on the remaining third of the world, namely the Greek, and establishes the Turkish Empire upon its ruins. The first trumpet therefore must have its fulfillment in the campaign of Alaric King of the Goths 395-410 A.D., after the death of Theodosius in 395 A.D. The Goths revolted from the Roman power. Alaric, disappointed in his expectation of being in command of the Roman armies, became their leader (Gibbon, 2, p. 213). At the midnight hour the Salarian gate was opened, the inhabitants were awakened by the sound of the Gothic trumpet. 1163 years after the foundation of the imperial city, which had subdued and civilized such a large part of mankind, was delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia (Gibbon, 2, p. 260). Gathered out of the unexplored North like a mighty torrent, they threw themselves like a savage host upon Rome. Barbarous as the Indians of the desert they left behind blackened, scarred, scorched, bloody, and desolate lands. Lands once blooming like gardens now looked like deserts. Rome had not seen a capable enemy in 800 years. The siege lasted for three days as the sack went on. Glutted with blood and spoils they left eight days after Alaric was dead. Bereft of their leader they hurried back and buried themselves in the regions of the north. This I believe to be the first trumpet. Read the history books and decide for yourself.
8-9 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.
In Jeremiah we have a heathen power called a mountain:
“I am against you, O destroying mountain, you who destroy the whole earth,” declares the Lord. “I will stretch out my hand against you, roll you off the cliffs, and make you a burned-out mountain. JER 51:25
We must therefore look for a mountain (heathen power) that will be cast into the sea and attack a third part of the world from the sea. The symbols of blood and ships being destroyed indicate that we should look for a maritime battle. I believe that Genseric, King of the Vandals 423-468 fulfills this trumpet. They rushed over Gaul, swept through Spain, leaped over the narrow straights of Gibraltar, and took North Africa. Then built a fleet and assailed Rome from the seas. For six hundred years no ship was hostile to Rome. The Vandals sailed into the Tiber and met in the shock of battle. The Roman ensign goes down, and the islands and mainland fall into the hands of the Barbarians. Nearly 30 years after the contest began, they rush upon Rome and spare neither age nor sex. The spoil of 800 years and l00 nations was loaded on the Vandal ships. Rome was blasted, sacked, scorched, and pillaged. Genseric died a few months later. Notice that this prophetic utterance says that the mountain (heathen power–the Vandals) would come by the sea. They were a burning mountain. This mountain would be extinguished by the sea. Then, Genseric was extinguished in a few months after his mission was accomplished. The Word of God is never wrong.
10-11 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 [That is, Bitterness]. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
As the third angel sounds his trumpet a great star falls on the rivers. The star is bitter and many people die. We must look therefore for a person of high rank. In Genesis 37:9-10, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Benjamin are called stars. We speak of great actors as stars. Great players in sports are stars.
Lets look at history and see if we can identify a star that fell upon the rivers. I believe that Attila, King of the Huns (433-455 A.D.) fulfills this trumpet. In a manner resembling a meteor in the sky, this brilliant warrior who styled himself “THE SCOURGE OF GOD” appeared suddenly. In three years he was burnt out. He marched through central Asia, North of the Exine Sea, through Russia and knocked at the river boundary of the Roman Empire, overcome opposition at the Danube, crossed the Rhine, and at river Marne 150,000 to 300,000 were slain. The river ran with blood.
The next battle was at the river Rhone. He crossed the Alps and fought a battle at the river Po. Victorious, he marched for the imperial prize. Rome sent out a priestly delegation that intervened in behalf of Rome. He made Budapest on the Danube his capitol and when he died he was buried beneath its waters. This bitter, wormwood star soon ran its brilliant course. This group of people known as the Huns was a nomadic, Mongoloid people who raised horses and sheep. They lived in tents and traveled about carrying their belongings with them. They were fierce fighters and were merciless. Horde after horde had joined together until there was thousands and thousands of them. The first began by swarming across the country murdering, stealing and leaving whole towns in ruins. Attila’s father, Rua, conquered all of northern Europe. The Romans were terrified of their new enemy. So, Theodosius II, emperor of Rome came up with a plan. He offered the Huns a chance to serve in the Roman army. they would exchange a hostage. Rome sent Aetius to the Huns and the Huns sent Attila. Attila was only ten years old when he arrived in Rome. He hated being in Rome and longed for the day he could return to his homeland. In 434 his uncle, Rua, died and Attila became king. Now, Attila had dreams of becoming the ruler of the Hunnish tribes and conquering, China, India and Persia. Because of the Great Wall of China, which was 1800 miles long, he was unsuccessful in his attempt to conquer China. However, he went to work building up a strong Army to attack the Roman Empire. In 451, with his army of 700,000 horsemen he appeared on the Rhine River, crossed over into Gaul (now France) and conquered Orleans. Attila massacred every man, woman and child in the city. Attila slaughtered all who resisted him. They called him the “Scourge of God.” After a defeat at the hands of the Roman General, Aetius, he regrouped and again went after the RomansThe Romans and the Huns agreed that in order to facilitate this that. He now crossed through Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the Northeastern Alps. He soon reached the Po River, north of Rome. As he moved southward through the countryside he laid waste and captured city after city. Rome knew that she could not resist the Army of Attila so she sent a delegation of priests led by Pope Leo I. This delegation bought off Attila and persuaded him to return to his homeland. After he returned home he married and died while celebrating his wedding. His army fell apart and they returned to shepherding. This brilliant star had burned out but the memory of the horror of the Huns still lives on in infamy.
12 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.
Now we are told that the theater has changed to sun, moon, and stars. These symbols were used extensively in the Old Testament to describe the fall of a nation or empire. I call your attention to Isaiah and Ezekiel:
9See, the day of the Lord is coming
–a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger–
to make the land desolate
and destroy the sinners within it.
10The stars of heaven and their constellations
will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
and the moon will not give its light.
11I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
12I will make man scarcer than pure gold,
more rare than the gold of Ophir.
13Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the Lord Almighty,
in the day of his burning anger.
14Like a hunted gazelle,
like sheep without a shepherd,
each will return to his own people,
each will flee to his native land.
15Whoever is captured will be thrust through;
all who are caught will fall by the sword.
16Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
their houses will be looted and their wives ravished.
17See, I will stir up against them the Medes,
who do not care for silver
and have no delight in gold.
18Their bows will strike down the young men;
they will have no mercy on infants
nor will they look with compassion on children.
19Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
the glory of the Babylonians’ pride,
will be overthrown by God
like Sodom and Gomorrah.
20She will never be inhabited
or lived in through all generations;
no Arab will pitch his tent there,
no shepherd will rest his flocks there.
21But desert creatures will lie there,
jackals will fill her houses;
there the owls will dwell,
and there the wild goats will leap about.
22Hyenas will howl in her strongholds,
jackals in her luxurious palaces.
Her time is at hand,
and her days will not be prolonged. (ISA 13:9-22)
The Lord has stretched out his hand over the sea and made its kingdoms tremble. He has given an order concerning Phoenicia that her fortresses be destroyed. ISA 23:11
The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously. ISA 24:23
All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. ISA 34:4
When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you; I will bring darkness over your land, declares the Sovereign Lord. EZE 32:7-8
SUN – Supreme ruler
STARS – Princes and Rulers, Governors, Senators, conspicuous men
DARKNESS OF THE HEAVENS – a kingdom thrown into turmoil, want of clearness, in a dismal condition
When the fourth angel sounds we must look for a time in history when this condition was fulfilled. I believe that that the fourth trumpet was fulfilled under Odaccer King of the Heruli (476-490 A.D.) This Northern Race, encouraged by the apparent weakness of the empire descended upon Rome and slew Agustulus. They abolished the senate that had met for 1228 years. The entire government was extinguished. A period of mental and spiritual darkness shrouded men’s minds. The mighty fabric of the empire had fallen to the dust. Sun, Moon and Stars–Emperor, Princes and great men are smitten. They lost their power and cease to give their light. The period called the DARK AGES begins.
13 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!”
The word “woe” is an exclamation of grief–a lamentation. And now, the ninth chapter will show you why the angel tells us to hang on because worse is yet to come…