Overview of the Seven Trumpets

OVERVIEW – An introduction to the sounding of the Seven Trumpets by seven angels, and the several intervening events – Revelation 8:7-11:19

Photo by HalGatewood.com on Unsplash
Structurally, the series of “seven trumpets” follow the same pattern as that of the 
seven seals.” Like the first four seals, the first four trumpets form a distinct group. Similarly, the last three are marked off from the rest as the “three woes.”  Furthermore, like the series of “seven seals,” several events interrupt the series before the seventh trumpet sounds. Both series are preceded by the prayers of the saints, represented by incense - [Photo by HalGatewood.com on Unsplash].

When the seventh trumpet does “sound,” the result is the consummation of the Kingdom and the judgment of the dead. Like the seven seals, the trumpets end with the “Day of the Lord” characterized by “flashes of lightning, voices, claps of thunder, an earthquake,” with “great hail” added for good measure.

The first four trumpets parallel the first four seals. Both groups inflict damage within predetermined limits. The first four seals harm a fourth of the earth, the first four trumpets a third of the earth, sea, rivers, and the heavenly luminaries.

There are differences. The first four seals caused human suffering and death. In contrast, the first four trumpets affected the things necessary for society to function - agriculture, the seas that carry cargo, fresh water, and the light from heavenly bodies. Men were killed, but only when they drank the “bitter waters” caused by the third trumpet. The seven seals were opened by the Lamb, but the seven trumpets were sounded by seven angels.

The change in agency to angels may reflect a change in focus. The seven seals were concerned with the saints who belong to the “Lamb” - (e.g., The “souls under the altar,” the “sealed company,” the “innumerable multitude”). In contrast, the seven trumpets afflicted the “inhabitants of the earth” who were hostile to the “Lamb” and his servants.

The first four trumpets borrow imagery from two Old Testament stories - The ten plagues of Egypt, and the prophetic dirge against ancient Babylon by the prophet Jeremiah - (Jeremiah 51:25).

After the sounding of the first four trumpets, an angel pronounced the arrival of the “three woes,” the last three trumpets. The first four trumpets harmed things (e.g., agriculture, transportation); the final three harmed persons, the “inhabitants of the earth.” This group is hostile to the “Lamb” throughout the book - (Revelation 11:1012:1214:617:2-8).

The fifth trumpet, the “second woe,” introduced the “Abyss.” Throughout the book, it is the place from which all things satanic “ascend” to attack the people of the “Lamb.” For example, the “beast from the sea” was first seen ascending from the “Abyss.” Symbolically, the “sea” and the “Abyss” are identical. At the end of the age, Satan will be released from the “Abyss” for one final attempt to annihilate the “saints” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1, 20:7-10).

With the unlocking of the “Abyss,” a horde of demonic creatures likened to “locusts” ascended from the “smoke of the Abyss” to torment the “men who do not have the seal of God.” In contrast to the first four trumpet blasts, the “locusts” must not “hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree.”

The sixth trumpet, the “second woe,” unleashed a destructive force from beyond the “Euphrates River” that killed a third of humanity. Prior to its sounding, “four angels” were restraining this force; most likely, the same four angels seen earlier restraining the “four winds of the earth” - (Revelation 7:1-3).

Despite the horrific harm inflicted by the first two “woes,” the “inhabitants of the earth” refused to repent. Apparently, the “plagues” unleashed by the fifth and sixth trumpet only succeed in hardening the hearts of men. Something more was needed (Revelation 9:18-21).

The first six trumpet blasts were followed by three events that intervened between the sixth and the seventh trumpets. First, John received a “little scroll” that was already opened.  He was ordered to consume it, which prepared him to “prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” - (Revelation 10:1-11).

Next, John was commanded to “measure” the “sanctuary” in the Tabernacle and “them that worship therein.” In Revelation, images of the sanctuary and its rituals are drawn from the Tabernacle carried by Israel in the wilderness, NOT from the later Temple building in Jerusalem. Most likely, the “measuring” paralleled the previous “sealing” of God’s servants.

This “measuring of the sanctuary” was followed by the “two witnesses” who presented the world with their prophetic witness. This vision concerned the same period as the “measuring of the sanctuary,” the “forty-two months” or “thousand two hundred and threescore days” - (Revelation 11:1-6).

When the “two witnesses” completed their ministry, the “beast that ascended from the Abyss” killed them. The “inhabitants of the earth rejoiced” over their deaths; their testimony had tormented humanity - (Revelation 11:7-13).

Their deaths caused God to act. The “two witnesses” were raised from the dead, then the seventh trumpet sounded, the “third” and final “woe.” This ushered in the consummation of the Kingdom of God, the judgment of the dead, and the vindication of the righteous.  As with the sixth seal, at the conclusion of the “seven trumpets,” the reader finds him or herself at the end of the age, the “Day of the Lord,” the time of “wrath.” As with the “seven seals,” the literary unit closes with “flashes of lightning, and voices, and claps of thunder, and an earthquake, and great hail.”


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