Purpose of a trumpet:
A trumpet was blown to issue the call to worship in the Temple. Trumpets might also preface important announcements or warnings. When trumpets follow the opening of the seals on the scroll, it is tempting for modern Western readers to imagine that the events foretold will follow the events described in the seals. But Jewish writing frequently uses repetition for emphasis, and different imagery to retell the same event. The information given with the blowing of trumpets may just be another way of looking at the same events described as the seals were opened. Following the imagery of a worship service, the scroll has been brought forward to be read and the congregation is now called to attend as the trumpets are blown.
List of Trumpets:
There are seven trumpets, just as there were seven seals, a repetition that makes it even more likely that the number is symbolic of God’s plan. We are all called. We can all hear the trumpets. There are no excuses and everyone gets a chance to respond.
Matthew 24:14 And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.
The trumpets fall into separate groups, just as the seals did, with an initial group of four warnings, followed by three woes. Again, there is the feel of implied questions and answers, as if the writer stops watching for a moment to ask the angel “What does this mean?” or “What about us?”
A. Four warnings (Revelation 8)
There are four warnings, a number symbolizing the earth, so all the earth is warned.
This time a third of each entity is destroyed (8:7,8,11,12,15) symbolizing a Godly fraction, rather than the earthly fraction destroyed when the seals were removed. This fraction would remind early readers of apocalyptic writings (Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Joel etc.) and Roman dominion, whereas the earlier quarters would have made them see the involvement of the whole earth in judgment.
1. Warning to those who fight God’s people with weapons (6-7)
Ezekiel 38 describes the gathering of the armies for Armageddon, and God’s destruction of them. 16you will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the earth. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I display my holiness before their eyes.
22I will pour down torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur, upon him and his troops and the many peoples that are with him.
2. Warning to those who fight God’s people with laws (8-9)
Jeremiah 51:24-26 24I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the wrong that they have done in Zion, says the LORD. 25I am against you, O destroying mountain, says the LORD, that destroys the whole earth; I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and make you a burned-out mountain. 26No stone shall be taken from you for a corner and no stone for a foundation, but you shall be a perpetual waste, says the LORD.
3. Warning to those who think they are better than God (10-11)
Isaiah 14:12-15 prophesies the fall of Babylon. 12How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon;14 I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.” 15But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.
Luke 10:18 is also brought to mind:“I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.”
4. Warning to those who think they can keep people away from God (12-13)
Ezekiel 32 describes judgement on Egypt – held Israel captive, muddied the waters (32:2).
7When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens, and make their stars dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give its light.
B. The Eagle
The eagle in verse 13 might be a Roman bird of omen, reminding readers that these things will be visible and understandable to saved and unsaved alike. There may be some reminder too of the eagle’s wings that bear God’s people to safety (Exodus 19:4 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Also Isaiah 40:31 31but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
C. Three Woes (Revelation 9)
5. God withdraws his protection as the fifth trumpet is blown.
The falling star may be a reference to Satan (9:1) or the angel of death that killed the firstborn in Egypt (9:11). In either case, God gives permission for what happens as He hands over the key.
1And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth. 11They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek he is called Apollyon.
The imagery would be familiar from Joel’s prophecy of an army engulfing sinful Israel. (Joel 1:4) What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten.
Verse 5 limits the time of suffering to five months, half of ten, where ten is another symbolic number (ten commandments) usually used to mean something humanly countable or measurable.
6. God sends his angels with the sixth trumpet.
Are these the angels of death?
13 a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God. A voice is heard (13) from the four horns of the altar, where blood from the sacrifice would be placed.
14 four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates. The angels bound to the river of Eden (14)might indicate how God was holding back His death penalty, earned in the Fall.
D. Repentance (20-21)
The warnings are meant to lead to repentance, but not everyone repents.
E. What about us?
Revelation 10:1-11:14 moves away from the subject of trumpets, as if John has asked the angel a question. The Fate of God’s People is described in the following two visions:
- Vision of the little scroll – some things cannot be understood
- Vision of the witnesses – some are explained
F. Third Woe (Revelation 11:14-19). The earthquake reappears with the seventh trumpet.
This could well be the same earthquake as was seen in the "contents" lists at the sixth seal. It isn’t even seen as a woe by God’s people, perhaps recalling when Christ’s sacrifice bought our salvation..
Matthew 27:51 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.