Revelation 8.1-2 "THE SEVENTH SEAL . . . A SILENCE"
8.1 At the opening of the seventh seal, there is a silence in heaven. The whole universe grows still, because the time is changing.
8.2 The angels stand, but the 24 elders sit. These seven angels are specially designated as "the seven angels that stand before God"; consequently, some people deem Gabriel to be one of these angels.
Trumpets are designed for war (1 Cor. 14.8; Amos 3.6; Ex. 19.16).
The will of heaven is about ready for blowing, but God is waiting for one thing to be done before He will give the order to blow. That one thing is: the sons of God expressing full accord with God. What He is waiting for is the thing described in 8.3-5. Prayer is the rail to God’s will.
8.3-5 SITUATION IN HEAVEN AFTER OPENING OF SEVEN SEALS
8.3 "And another angel"—This "another angel" is a priest, hence he must be the Lord Jesus. The prayers of all the saints ascend to God through the incense offered by this angel. No Christian can offer up prayer except by means of incense, which signifies the merits of Christ. Through the sweet savor of Christ a believer’s prayer reaches before God.
Why is the Lord called an "angel" and not a priest here? Hebrews states: "For verily not to angels doth he [Christ] give help" (2.16). When the New Testament epistles mention the Lord’s relationship with us they always describe Him as man. "Wherefore it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren" (Heb. 2.17). Because He is man, therefore He is closer to mankind. The angels are made a little higher than men. In Genesis 18.2,16, and 22 the word "men" is used to show their closeness to Abraham. Genesis 19.1 uses the word "angels" to distinguish them from ordinary men; yet in Genesis 19.10,12, and 16 the word "men" is used again for they were helping Lot. The reason why in Revelation 8.3 the Lord is designated as an angel is to indicate the changing of time. He is no longer the Son of man in the gospel age. He has now become another angel though still a priest.
The saints here are plainly in trials.
In the Old Testament period incense must be burned with the fire on the altar. No strange fire is allowed. Since the altar typifies the cross of our Lord and incense represents prayer, our prayers can reach God only through. the merits of our Lord in the redemption accomplished on the cross. Prayer should not be offered with strange fire, that is, with fire not taken from the altar. Without the cross there can be no prayer.
8.4 "The smoke of the incense"—The incense is already lighted. The smoke of the incense speaks of the merits of our Lord. Only smoke may ascend. Except for the Lord’s incense, no prayer will reach God’s presence.
8.5 "And there followed . . ."—This shows that God has answered the
prayers of the saints. Although we do not know what they say in their prayers, we nonetheless know what they pray for through the answer they get. The prayers of the saints here are in accord with the voice underneath the altar in the fifth seal. They are prayers for vengeance (see Luke 18.1-8).
"And the angel taketh the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and cast it upon the earth"—The answer comes down to where the prayers originated. What is cast on earth is the judgment of God.
Sounding Seven Trumpets (8.6-11.19)
8.6-7 “THE FIRST TRUMPET”
8.6 The seven angels prepare themselves to sound the trumpets.
8.7 God’s judgment proceeds from the furtherest place until it strikes men. His judgment falls on other things first, He still expecting repentance from men.
At the sounding of the first trumpet fire is cast upon the earth, consuming the third part of the trees as fuel. In the Old Testament age, soon after the sacrifice was offered by fire the blood was poured out. Hence we have here fire and blood. This fire will burn through the bottomless pit.
And the third part of the trees along with all green grass are burned up. The beauty of nature is first destroyed.
8.8-9 “THE SECOND TRUMPET”
The plague of this trumpet causes the maritime world to lose one third of its business (cf. “the mountains be shaken into the heart of the seas”, Ps. 46.2). This trumpet hurts the salty waters.
8.10-11 “THE THIRD TRUMPET”
As both the first and second trumpets use fire, so fire is used in the third trumpet. In remembrance of His covenant with Noah, God will not use water to destroy the earth again (Gen. 9.13-15).
“Wormwood” means “bitter” (see Jer. 9.13-15, 23.14-15; Lam. 3.15). This trumpet strikes the non-salty waters.
8.12 “THE FOURTH TRUMPET”
The lights of the sun, moon, and stars, together with the other celestial phenomena, are disturbed; and the world becomes darker. God has not smitten the sun, moon, and stars completely because He remembers His own word (Gen. 8.22).
The plagues of the seals are general, but the plagues of the trumpets are specific and designated. Hence the seals have been and are being fulfilled, while in our time none of the trumpets has as yet been blown.
8.13 Just as the seals are divided into four and three, so the trumpets are divided into four and three. The first four trumpets are merely tribulations, but the last three are the trumpets of woes (9.12, 11.14). The plagues of the first four trumpets are not directed against men; they only affect mankind indirectly. The death of the last three trumpets, however, do come directly to men.
The “eagle” mentioned here is indeed an eagle, for did not the ass of Balaam also speak?
“Them that dwell on the earth”—They are differentiated from those who are mere strangers and sojourners on earth.