Tag Archives: the seven trumpets of Revelation

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes to the Seven Trumpets

The Sabbath School Lesson #7 has generally not undergone significant editorial changes that would cause some serious concern.

Here are the significant changes:

The second half of the Tuesday lesson has been rewritten.

In the first paragraph of the Thursday lesson, the following has been removed: “. . . but they also may represent God’s people as they bear witness to the Bible. The two cannot be separated because God’s people are called to proclaim the Bible to the world.”

Also, the first of the Friday discussion questions has completely changed.

Lesson 7 * February 9-15

The Seven Trumpets

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. 8:2-11:18; Num. 10:8-10; Ezekiel 2:8-3:11.
Memory Verse: “But in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets” (Revelation 10:7, NKJV).
Many Christians have struggled with doubts, wondering if their prayers only ascend above the ceiling. In the scene of the fifth seal, we saw that the cry of God’s oppressed people represented the cry of the faithful of all ages. These were portrayed as souls under the altar crying to God for justice and vindication, saying: “How Long, O Lord?” (Rev. 6:10). The voice from heaven urged them to wait for a while because the day was coming when God would judge those who harmed them. Revelation 6:15-17 pictures Jesus returning to this earth and bringing judgment upon those who harmed His faithful followers.
“How long, O Lord?” has been the perennial cry of God’s oppressed and suffering people throughout history (Ps. 79:5; Hab. 1:2). The scene of the fifth seal represents the experience of God’s suffering people throughout history, from the time of Abel until the time when God will finally judge and avenge “the blood of His servants” (Rev. 19:2). God’s suffering people must remain firm and believe that God hears the prayers of His people.
The vision of the seven trumpets shows that, throughout history, God has already intervened on behalf of His oppressed people, and has judged those who harmed His people. The purpose of the seven trumpets is to assure God’s people that heaven is not indifferent to their suffering. He is already responding to their prayers. The trumpets’ plagues fall on the inhabitants of the earth in answer to the prayers of His people.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 17.

Sunday February 10
The Prayers of the Saints
Revelation 8 opens with a picture of seven angels standing before God ready to blow their trumpets. Before the trumpets are blown, another scene is inserted. Its purpose is to explain the theological meaning of the trumpets.
Read Revelation 8:3-4 along with the description of the daily services in the temple in Jerusalem given below:
The Mishnah explains that at the evening sacrifice the sacrificial lamb was placed upon the altar of burnt offering and the blood was poured out at the base of the altar. An appointed priest took the golden censer inside the temple and offered incense on the golden altar in the Holy Place. When the priest came out, he threw the censer down on the pavement, producing a loud noise. At that point, the seven priests blew their trumpets, marking the end of the temple services for that day.
One can see how the language of the evening service is used in Revelation 8:3-5. It is significant that the angel receives incense at the altar of burnt offering underneath which, in the fifth seal, the blood of the martyred saints prayed to God for intervention (Rev. 6:10). The incense represents the prayers of God’s people (Rev. 5:8). Thus, the prayers that the angel offers before God are the prayers of God’s persecuted people in the fifth seal. Their prayers are now heard by God.
Revelation 8:3-5 provides important information regarding the trumpets in Revelation:
a. The seven trumpets are God’s judgments on rebellious humanity in response to the prayers of His oppressed people.
b. The trumpets follow the death of Jesus as the Lamb and run consecutively throughout history until the Second of Coming (see Rev. 11:15-18).
Read Revelation 8:5 along with Ezekiel 10:2. What is the source of the fire that is thrown upon the enemies of God’s people? How does Ezekiel’s vision of hurling fire upon apostate Jerusalem elucidate the nature of the trumpets in Revelation?
The angel fills the censer with fire from the altar and hurls it down to the earth. Significantly, this fire comes from the very altar on which the prayers of the saints were offered. This shows that the seven trumpet judgments fall upon the inhabitants of the earth in answer to the prayers of God’s people. God’s people are not forgotten and God is going to intervene on their behalf. The hurling down of the fire may also be a warning that Christ’s intercession will not last forever.
Have you ever prayed to God because of harm done to you, but were not sure if your prayer went beyond the ceiling? What assurance does today’s lesson speak to you?

Monday February 11
The Meaning of the Trumpets
In portraying God’s interventions in history on behalf of His people, Revelation uses the imagery of trumpets in the Old Testament. Trumpets were an important part of the daily life of ancient Israel. Their sound reminded people of the worship in the temple; trumpets were also blown in battle, at harvest time, and during festivals.
Read Numbers 10:8-10 along with 2 Chronicles 13:14. What was the purpose of blowing trumpets in ancient Israel?
Trumpets were sacred instruments that were blown by priests. Blowing trumpets went hand in hand with prayer. It called on God to “remember” His people. During worship in the temple or during the festivals, the trumpets reminded God of His covenant with His people. During a battle, the trumpet sound, which was accompanied by prayers, called on God to save His people (see 2 Chr. 13:14). This concept is the backdrop for the trumpets in Revelation.
Read Revelation 8:13; 9:4, 20-21. Who are the objects of the judgments of the seven trumpets?
The events triggered by the trumpets in Revelation denote God’s intervention in history in response to the prayers of His people. While the seals concern primarily those who profess to be God’s people, the trumpets herald judgments against the inhabitants of the earth (Rev. 8:13). At the same time, they are warnings to the people to bring them to repentance before it is too late.
The seven trumpets cover the course of history from the cross until the conclusion of this earth’s history (Rev. 11:15-18). They are blown while intercession goes on in heaven (Rev. 8:3-6) and the gospel is being preached on earth (10:8-11:14). The judgments of the trumpets are partial as they affect only one third of creation. The seventh trumpet announces that the time has arrived for God to assume His rightful rule. The best way to apply the trumpets historically is:
(a) The first two trumpets herald judgments upon the nations that crucified Christ and persecuted the early church—rebellious Jerusalem and the Roman Empire.
(b) The third and fourth trumpets portray heaven’s reaction to the apostasy of the Medieval and post-Reformation eras.
(c) The fifth and sixth trumpets describe the situation in the secular world in the post medieval period in aftermath of the Age of Enlightenment, which is characterized by extensive demonic activity that draws the world into the Battle of Armageddon.
The seven trumpets bring a message of comfort to God’s people, showing them that heaven is not indifferent to what they experience in the world. What message does this bring to you?

Tuesday February 12
The Angel with an Open Book
The sixth trumpet brings us to the time of the end. What are God’s people called to do during this time? Before the seventh trumpet sounds, an interlude is inserted explaining the task and experience of God’s people at the end time.
Read Revelation 10:1-4. Describe in your own words what John sees in the vision. Why was John forbidden to write down what the seven thunders said?
This angel, who has the appearance of Christ, holds an open book. He places his feet on the sea and the land because what he is about to proclaim has worldwide significance. He shouts with the roar of a lion. A lion’s roar symbolizes God’s voice (see Hos. 11:10).
At that point, John hears the seven thunders speaking, which is another symbol of God’s voice (see Ps. 29:3-9). John is not allowed to write down what the thunders have said. There are things concerning the future that God has not revealed. In studying end-time prophecies, we must not venture beyond what God intended for us to know.

Read Revelation 10:5-7. Compare this passage with Daniel 12:6-7. Highlight all the words they have in common.
When the angel states that there will “be time no longer,” the Greek word chronos shows that he refers to a period of time. This points back to Daniel 12:6-7 where an angel states the persecution of the saints will last for a time, times, and a half time. After this prophetic time, the end would come.
The statement that time will be no longer refers to the time prophecies of Daniel, particularly a time, times, and a half a time or 1,260 years of the persecution by the Antichrist power (AD 538-1798). After this period, there will no longer be prophetic time periods. Ellen White states:
“This time, which the angel declares with a solemn oath, is . . . prophetic time, which should precede the advent of our Lord. That is, the people will not have another message upon definite time. After this period of time, reaching from 1842 to 1844, there can be no definite tracing of the prophetic time. The longest reckoning reaches to the autumn of 1844” (in SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 971).
Although the time of the end begins after Daniel’s time prophecies, the end is not yet. It is at the seventh trumpet’s sound that the mystery of God will be finished. This mystery encompasses the whole purpose of God to establish His eternal kingdom.

Wednesday February 13
Eating the Scroll
Read Revelation 10:8-11. What is John commanded to do in vision? What does the eating of the book symbolize?
Eating in the Bible is used to describe the acceptance of a message from God in order to proclaim it to the people (see Ezekiel 2:8-3:11; Jeremiah 15:16). When received, the message is good news; but when it is proclaimed, it sometimes results in bitterness as it is resisted and rejected by many.
John’s bittersweet experience in eating the scroll is related to the unsealing of Daniel’s end-time prophecies. John here represents the church that is commissioned to proclaim the gospel at the close of Daniel’s time prophecy of 1,260 days.
The context indicates that John’s visionary experience pointed to another bittersweet experience at the conclusion of the prophetic 1,260-day period. When, on the basis of Daniel’s prophecies, the Millerites thought that Christ would return in 1844, that message was sweet to them. However, when this did not happen they experienced the bitterness of the message they had proclaimed. Although disappointed and ridiculed, those who stayed firm found comfort in John’s visionary experience.
In John’s commission to “prophesy again” to the world, Adventists have seen themselves as the end-time prophetic movement delegated to proclaim the message of the Second Coming in connection with Daniel’s prophecies. When the gospel message is heard by the world, then the end will come.
Read Revelation 11:1-2. What is John ordered to do? What three things is he commanded to measure?
This passage continues the scene of Revelation 10. John was commanded to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshippers. The concept of measuring in the Bible refers figuratively to judgment (see Matt. 7:2). The temple that was to be measured is in heaven where Jesus ministers for us. The reference to the temple, the altar, and the worshippers points to the Day of Atonement (see Lev. 16:16-19). The Day of Atonement was a day of “measuring” as God judged the sins of His people. Thus, Revelation 11:1 refers to the judgment that takes place prior to the Second Coming. This judgment concerns exclusively God’s people—the worshippers in the temple. Its purpose is to determine who serves God and who does not.
Revelation 11:1 shows that the heavenly sanctuary message lies at the heart of the final gospel proclamation. It concerns the vindication of God’s character. As such, it gives the full dimension of the gospel message regarding the atoning work of Christ and His righteousness as the only means of salvation for human beings.

Thursday February 14
The Two Witnesses
The interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets shows what God’s people are called to do at the end time. The vision of the two witnesses describes their experience in the world as they bear witness to the Bible.
Read Revelation 11:3-6. In what way do the two witnesses reflect Zerubbabel and Joshua in their royal and priestly roles (see Zech. 4:2-3, 11-14) as well as the roles of Moses and Elijah?
The idea of two witnesses comes from the Jewish legal system that requires at least two witnesses to establish something to be true (John 8:17). The two witnesses represent the Bible; but they also may represent God’s people as they bear witness to the Bible. The two cannot be separated because God’s people are called to proclaim the Bible to the world.
The witnesses are pictured as prophesying in sackcloth during the prophetic period of 1,260 years (AD 538-1798). This points back to Revelation 10:11 where John was told that he has to prophesy. This shows that this call to prophesy extends to the church. Sackcloth is the garment of mourning (Gen. 37:34); this points to the difficult time through which God’s people must go as they proclaim the Bible to the world.
Read Revelation 11:7-10. In your words, describe what happened to the two witnesses at the end of the prophetic 1,260 days?
The beast that kills the two witnesses arises from the very abode of Satan. This killing of the witnesses applies historically to the atheistic attack on the Bible and the abolition of religion in connection with the events of the French Revolution. This anti-religious system possessed the moral degradation of Sodom, the atheistic arrogance of Egypt, and the rebelliousness of Jerusalem. What happened to Jesus in Jerusalem now happens to the Bible by this anti-religious system.
Read Revelation 11:11-13. What was the reaction of the world at the resurrection of the two witnesses?
The resurrection of the witnesses points to the great revival of interest in the Bible in the aftermath of the French Revolution, which resulted in the establishment of Bible societies and numerous missionary movements with the purpose of spreading the Bible. The word of God was triumphant.
Right before the end, the world will witness a worldwide preaching of the Bible like never before in history. This final proclamation will have a bittersweet effect, as it will provoke opposition empowered by the demonic activities working miracles to entice the world into to the final battle against God’s faithful witnesses (see Rev. 16:13-16).

Friday February 15
Further Thought: The seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15-18) signals the conclusion of this earth’s history. The time has come for God to reveal His power and reign. This rebellious planet, which has been under the dominion of Satan for thousands of years, is about to come back under God’s dominion and rule. It was after Christ’s death on the cross and His ascension to heaven that Satan, as the usurper, was finally expelled from heaven and Christ was proclaimed to be the legitimate ruler of the earth (Rev. 12:10). Yet, this rebellious world still remained under Satan’s dominion. Christ has to reign as co-ruler with the Father “until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). The seventh trumpet heralds that the usurping powers have been dealt with and this world has finally come under his rightful rule.
The seventh trumpet outlines the content of the second half of the book: (1) The nations were angry: Revelation 12-14 describes Satan as filled with anger, (12:17) who with his two allies—the sea beast and the earth beast—prepares the nations of the world to fight against God’s people. (2) Your wrath has come: God responds to the anger of the nations with the seven last plagues, which are referred to as God’s wrath (see Rev. 15:1). (3) The time for the dead to be judged is described in Revelation 20:11-15. (4) And to reward God’s servants is portrayed in Revelation 21-22. (5) To destroy those who destroy the earth: Revelation 19:2 states that end-time Babylon is judged because it destroyed the earth. The destruction of Satan, his hosts, and his two allies is the final act in the drama of the great controversy (Rev. 19:11-20:15).

Discussion Questions:
Why is it important to understand that after the conclusion of Daniel’s time prophecies there are no more prophetic time periods? Do you know people who are preoccupied with setting dates for the final events? How can you help them?
Reflect on the following statement: “Again and again have I been warned in regard to time setting. There will never again be a message for the people of God that will be based on time. We are not to know the definite time either for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or for the coming of Christ”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol 1, p. 188. What problems do you see with drafting detailed prophetic charts of the final events? How can one safeguard against such pitfalls?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 7, February 9-16 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: The Seven Trumpets

The changes to this quarter’s Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) were fewer and less significant than in the previous week. I will review the changes that were interesting or substantive.

In Main Themes II of the Commentary section, the editors removed wording that alerted the readers to the fact that it is possible (but not likely) to read the trumpets as after the close of probation. Since quite a few Adventists read the trumpets that way I felt it was best to acknowledge that possibility and then show why it doesn’t likely work. The editors probably felt it was safer to act as if such views did not exist. That is a judgment call that editors have to make, like it or not. I’d prefer not to “make opponents disappear” but to deal honestly with their differences and seek to win them. But in practice my approach may not be as effective as I’d hope it would be.

In Main Themes III the editors removed my reference to Ezek 20: 47-48, which is critical to my interpretation of the first trumpet. But my interpretation was left intact. Do look at Ezekiel as you prepare to teach or participate. Regarding the second trumpet the editors added a reference to 1 Pet 5:13, which I think is helpful. I left it out because of space limitations. Regarding the fourth trumpet, the editors removed my suggestion (on the basis of comparison with the fifth trumpet) that the fourth could depict the rise of secularism after the Middle Ages. They prefer the interpretation of deepening apostasy in the church. I think that is less likely to be the case as we have there the imagery of eclipse rather than alteration (as in the third trumpet), but it may be correct. Regarding the fifth trumpet, the editors removed my references to Luke 8:31 in connection with the Abyss.

In Main Themes V I noted that the angel of Revelation 10 raised his “right” hand to heaven. The editors removed this, which puzzled me, since the word “right” (Greek: dexian) is clearly there in all manuscript traditions. But the NKJV, following the KJV, leaves that word out. Evidently the final editor, whoever that is, uses the NKJV almost solely and does not check the original.

In sum, I can only be delighted that most of my comments were accepted and published. The seven trumpets are extremely difficult and there is no SDA consensus on their interpretation. Have fun trying to work it through this week! I should mention that Uriah Smith’s interpretation (Fall of Rome) is not followed by most SDA scholars for a number of reasons. Among others, he did not study them himself (his comments are full of quotations from others), he got his views from non-SDA sources, the position is not based on analysis of the text itself, and Ellen White’s seeming endorsement is casual and her use of Rev 9 is peripheral to her intention for that chapter. For more on that see http://www.thebattleofarmageddon.com/interpreting_7_trumpets_jon_paulien.html.

Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at https://www.absg.adventist.org/. My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at http://pineknoll.org/sabbath-school-lessons.

Original Teachers’ Notes for Rev 8-11 (Week 7)

I share here in blog form my original manuscript of this week’s (February 10-16) Sabbath School Adult Teacher’s Edition for people to compare with the edited version. The changes were not massive or disruptive in most cases. I share my analysis of the changes in the next blog. The Teachers’ Edition is based on the standard quarterly edition written primarily by my friend Ranko Stefanovic.

LESSON 7
THE SEVEN TRUMPETS

Part I: Overview

Key Text: Rev. 10:7.

Study Focus: The seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2 – 11:18) build on a view of the incense altar (8:3-4) and contain an “interlude” (10:1 – 11:13) which offers a view of God’s people in the midst of the horrific sixth trumpet (9:12-21).

Introduction: The purpose of the trumpets is clarified in connection with the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11). In the daily (tamid) service of the temple in John’s time, incense was collected at the Altar of Burnt Offering and then offered at the Altar of Incense in the Holy Place. Reference to both altars and the prayers of the saints in Rev. 8:3-4 connects the trumpets with the scene in Rev. 6:9-10. The seven trumpets answer the prayers of the saints for judgment on those who have persecuted them (compare also 6:10 with 8:13). The trumpets, therefore, fall on the opponents of God’s people throughout Christian history.

Lesson Themes: The lesson and the focus passage introduce the following themes:

1. The Meaning of Trumpets in the Bible.
2. The Time When the Trumpets Begin.
3. The Meaning of the Imagery in the First Six Trumpets.
4. The Relation of the “Interlude” to the Seven Trumpets.
5. The Allusion to Dan. 12 in Rev. 10.

Life Application. The prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:3-4) and the nature of opposition to the gospel provide two life applications in a fairly dark vision.

Part II. Commentary

The seven trumpets of Revelation (particularly 8:2 – 9:21) is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to interpret. Faithful Adventist students of the Bible have not come to agreement on its meaning through the years. But there are aspects of the passage that are reasonably clear and some of these are elaborated below.

Main Themes of Lesson 7 Elaborated:
1. The Meaning of Trumpets in the Bible. The Greek words for trumpets and trumpeting occur 144 times in the Greek translation of the OT. The vast majority of those references (105 out of 144) concern either signaling in warfare, worship and prayer, or a combination of both. The clearest single passage on the meaning of trumpets is Num. 10:8-10. In ancient Israel the trumpets were always to be handled by the priests (10:8), even in warfare. So there is a spiritual meaning that Israel was to discern in the blowing of trumpets. Signaling trumpets represented a prayer to God for intervention in battle (10:9). Likewise, in the temple and on the feast days, the blowing of trumpets invited God’s spiritual intervention in the lives of His people (10:10). So the core meaning of trumpets in the OT is covenant prayer, calling on God to remember His people.
Most of the occurrences of trumpets and trumpeting in the NT are in Rev. 8-9. At first glance it might seem that signaling in warfare is the primary meaning in the seven trumpets of Rev. But the connection between the trumpets and the fifth seal (see Introduction above) underlines the prayer theme as the primary one here too. The trumpets are a response to the prayers of the suffering saints of God (Rev. 6:9-10; 8:2-6). It assures them that God has noticed their suffering and, even though He may seem silent in their experience, He is already acting in history against those who have persecuted them (compare 6:10 and 8:13—see Life Application number 1 below).

2. The Time When the Trumpets Begin. The throwing down of the censer (or fire) in Rev. 8:5 suggests to some Adventist interpreters that the events that follow (8:6) are after the close of probation. This would mean that the seven trumpets represent end-time events rather than a forecast of events in the course of Christian history. But a number of indications in the text make this very unlikely.
First, the pattern in the first half of the book is that the visions begin with the NT era and cover events throughout Christian history. Second, whatever the casting down of the censer (fire) in Rev. 8:5 means, probation is clearly not yet closed at the time of the sixth trumpet. The intercession at the altar is still taking place (Rev. 9:13). The gospel is still going forth (10:11; 11:3-6, 12-13). That the “interlude” of Rev. 10:1 – 11:13 should be included in our understanding of the sixth trumpet is shown in Theme 4 below. Finally, the proclamation of the gospel ends and probation fully closes only at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev 10:7). So the seven trumpets of Revelation cover the whole course of history from John’s day to the close of probation and final events.

3. The Meaning of the Imagery in the First Six Trumpets. 1) The first trumpet uses the OT language of God’s judgments (hail, fire and blood– Exod. 9:23-26; Isa 10:16-20; Ezek. 38:22) directed against symbols of God’s OT people (vegetation and trees– Isa. 28:2ff.; Ezek. 20:47-48). Hence the lesson’s suggestion that the first trumpet represents God’s judgment on the Jerusalem that had rejected Christ (Matt. 23:37-38; Luke 23:28-31). 2) The second trumpet recalls in general God’s judgments on those who opposed Him (Exod. 7:19-21), and in particular the fall of ancient Babylon (Jer. 51:24-25, 41-42). The lesson, therefore, associated this trumpet with the fall of the Roman Empire.
3) The symbolism of the third trumpet parallels biblical imagery for the work of Satan (Isa. 14:12-19; Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:9). But the symbolism of lamp, springs, rivers and water suggest spiritual life and growth (Psa. 1:3; 84:6-7; 119:105; Jer. 2:13). The falling of the star and the embittering of the waters connect the two ideas suggesting a perversion of truth and a rise of apostasy. The lesson, therefore, associated this trumpet with the condition of the church in the Middle Ages. 4) In the fourth trumpet, the sources of light (sun, moon and stars) are darkened, the symbols of truth are partially eclipsed. This could represent the rise of secularism after the Middle Ages or the deepening of apostasy in the church (Exod. 10:21-23; Job 38:2; Isa. 8:22; John 1:4-11; 3:18-21).
5) With the fifth trumpet the partial darkness of the fourth becomes total and worldwide (Rev. 9:1-2; Luke 8:31). If the fourth trumpet represents the rise of secularism after the Middle Ages, the fifth would represent the triumph of secularism in the modern age. With God and truth totally eclipsed, sinful mankind is left to the demonic torment of suicidal desires (Rev. 9:3-11; Luke 8:31; 10:17-20). The only safety is in genuine relationship with God (Rev. 9:4).
6) While the first five trumpets have many allusions to ancient Egypt, the sixth trumpet particularly echoes biblical accounts regarding ancient Babylon. There are references to the river of Babylon (Rev. 9:14), the idolatry of Babylon (Rev. 9:20; Dan 5:4, 23) and the fall of Babylon (Rev. 9:21; Isa 47:9-12). There are also many parallels with the sixth bowl (Euphrates, battle language, demonic imagery– Rev. 16:12-16). So the sixth trumpet portrays the rise of end-time Babylon, with its opposition to God arising from within the church (Rev. 17:4-5).

4. The Relation of the “Interlude” to the Seven Trumpets. The trumpets focus on the wicked (Rev. 9:4, 20-21) but the “interlude” (Rev. 10:1 – 11:13) focuses on God’s people. The “interlude,” however, is not separate from the trumpets, it is part of the sixth trumpet. Rev. 8:13 describes three woes coming upon those who live on the earth. The first is the fifth trumpet (Rev. 9:12). The second woe is the sixth trumpet, but does not end until Rev. 11:14. So the bulk of chapters 10 and 11 are part of the sixth trumpet. While the forces of evil are gathering for the final crisis during the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:16), the forces of the righteous are gathering to counter them (Rev. 7:4; Rev. 10:1 – 11:13).

5. The Allusion to Dan. 12 in Rev. 10. One of the clearest allusions to the OT in all of Rev. is found in 10:5-6 (compare Dan. 12:7). The two passages have eight major words in common. Both passages have heavenly figures standing on or above bodies of water. In both cases the heavenly figure raises his right hand to heaven and swears by the one who lives forever and ever. The connection between the “time, times and half a time” of Dan. 12:7 with the “time no longer” of Rev. 10:6 indicates that the angel of Rev. 10 is announcing the close of Daniel’s time prophecies in the context of the sixth trumpet (preparation for the final events, see Theme 4 above).

Part III: Life Application

1. The material in the seven trumpets does not lend itself to a great deal of life application. But the teacher could ask the following questions, with possible answers suggested.

2. How does the connection between the introduction to the trumpets (Rev. 8:3-5) and the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11) offer encouragement to those suffering for the sake of the gospel today? The martyrs’ cry for judgment in the fifth seal is answered by the seven trumpets. The message of the trumpets is that God sees the suffering of His people and responds to the injustice, not only at the end of time, but in the course of history. Like Job, we may not always understand what God is doing, but we have reason to trust Him even in the darkest times.

3. The judgments of the first two trumpets fall on those powers that combined to crucify Jesus (the religious authorities of Jerusalem under Caiaphas and Roman civil authority under Pilate). What does this tell us about opposition to the gospel? Opposition to the gospel and those who embrace it tends to come in two distinct ways; opposition from inside and from outside. Jesus was crucified when the leaders of Israel (inside) combined with outside powers (Rome). The greatest opposition often comes from those in the same faith.
A similar dynamic is seen in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The father is not only rejected (initially) by the son who left, but also by the one who stayed. The one is indifferent to the father, the other is motivated by selfish gain.

The Spiritual Payoff in the Trumpets (Trumpets 7)

The material in the seven trumpets does not lend itself to a great deal of application to everyday life experience. But the following two points have been helpful to me.

1) How does the connection between the introduction to the trumpets (Rev. 8:3-5) and the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11) offer encouragement to those suffering for the sake of the gospel today? The martyrs’ cry for judgment in the fifth seal is answered by the seven trumpets (see Rev. 8:13). The trumpets are God’s judgment within history on powers that have been oppressing His people. The message of the trumpets is that God sees the suffering of His people and responds to the injustice, not only at the end of time, but in the course of history. Like Job, we may not always understand what God is doing, but we have reason to trust Him even in the darkest times.

2) The judgments of the first two trumpets fall on those powers that combined to crucify Jesus (the religious authorities of Jerusalem under Caiaphas and Roman civil authority under Pilate). What does this tell us about opposition to the gospel? Opposition to the gospel and those who embrace it tends to come from two distinct directions; opposition from inside the house and from outside the house. Jesus was crucified when the leaders of Israel (inside) combined with outside powers (Rome) to put Him to death. Historically, however, the greatest opposition to the true gospel and its followers often comes from those in the same faith.
A similar dynamic is seen in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The father is not only rejected (initially) by the son who left, but also by the one who stayed. The former is indifferent to the father, the latter is motivated by selfish gain. The prodigal son represents those today who care little about God and faith and are visibly on a different track. The elder son, on the other hand, represents those in the church who do not know or exhibit the character of the Father. On the outside they look pious and obedient, but inside is the heart of a rebel.

The Allusion to Daniel 12 in Revelation 10 (Trumpets 6)

One of the clearest allusions to the Old Testament in all of Revelation is found in 10:5-6 (compare Dan. 12:7). The two passages have eight major words in common. Both passages have heavenly figures standing on or above bodies of water. In both cases the heavenly figure raises his right hand to heaven and swears by the one who lives forever and ever. In each case there is a reference to prophetic time. So the allusion to Daniel 12 in Revelation 10 is one of the two or three clearest allusions to the Old Testament in the entire book.

Renowned British scholar C. H. Dodd articulated a very important principle based on his study of the quotations of the Old Testament throughout the New Testament. He noticed that New Testament writers did not refer to the Old Testament for the sake of “proof texts,” references that would by themselves support what the writer was saying (as we often do today). Instead they referred to specific parts of the Old Testament as pointers to a much larger context. In a few words one can bring a whole section or theme of the Old Testament into play. That is clearly what is going on in Revelation 10.

The key to the allusion to Daniel 12 in Revelation 10 is in the reference to time. The reference to “time no more” parallels the reference to “time, times and half a time” in Daniel 12:7. Daniel 12:7 is in one of several explanations of the original Hebrew-language vision of Daniel 8:3-14. So the reference to Daniel 12:7 is a pointer to the entire prophetic context of Daniel 8 through 12. The vision of Revelation 10 invites the reader to consider the whole context of Daniel 8 through 12. This passage contains a number of references to prophetic time (2300 evenings and mornings [Dan 8:13-14], 70 weeks [9:24-27] and the 1260, 1290 and 1335 days [12:7-11]). The “time no more” of Revelation 10:6 is announcing the close of Daniel’s time prophecies in the context of the sixth trumpet. Thus the close of the sixth trumpet ushers in the final events of earth’s history. Revelation 10 is building a case based on the entire last five chapters of the book of Daniel.

The Relation of the “Interlude” to the Seven Trumpets (Trumpets 5)

The trumpets focus on the opponents of God and of those bearing witness for Him (Rev. 9:4, 20-21) but the “interlude” between the sixth and seventh trumpets (Rev. 10:1 – 11:13) focuses on God’s people. The big question is whether the “interlude” is truly a pause or an “interruption” within the seven trumpets or whether it is actually part of the sixth or seventh trumpets themselves. Related to this is whether the interlude should be seen in terms of the timing of one of these trumpets or is it timeless in some sense. We have already seen that the “interlude” of Revelation 7 is closely related to the sixth seal rather than truly independent. Chapter seven answers the question of who will stand in the day of God’s wrath against the persecutors of His people (Rev. 6:17).

The answer to the question is not difficult to find when it comes to the material between the sixth and seventh trumpets. The “interlude,” however, is not separate from the trumpets, it is clearly part of the sixth trumpet. This is found in the sequencing of the three woes. Revelation 8:13 describes three woes coming upon those who live on the earth. According to Revelation 9:12, the first of these woes is the fifth trumpet. The second woe is the sixth trumpet, but it does not end at the close of chapter nine, it is described as ending at Revelation 11:14. So the bulk of chapters 10 and 11 are part of the sixth trumpet. While the forces of evil are gathering for the final crisis during the sixth trumpet (Rev. 9:16), the forces of the righteous are gathering to counter them (Rev. 7:4; Rev. 10:1 – 11:13). Since the sixth trumpet ends with the close of human probation (Rev. 10:7– the point where conversions no longer occur), the “interlude” within the sixth trumpet describes the final proclamation of the gospel to the world.

The Meaning of the First Six Trumpets (Trumpets 4)

Here’s a nutshell summary of the key themes in the first six trumpets. 1) The first trumpet uses the Old Testament language of God’s judgments (hail, fire and blood– Exod. 9:23-26; Isa 10:16-20; Ezek. 38:22) directed against symbols of God’s OT people (vegetation and trees– Isa. 28:2ff.; Ezek. 20:47-48). Hence the first trumpet represents God’s judgment on the Jerusalem that had rejected Christ (Matt. 23:37-38; Luke 23:28-31). 2) The second trumpet recalls in general God’s judgments on those who opposed Him (Exod. 7:19-21), and in particular the fall of ancient Babylon (Jer. 51:24-25, 41-42). This trumpet seems to describe the fall of the Roman Empire.

3) The symbolism of the third trumpet parallels biblical imagery for the work of Satan (Isa. 14:12-19; Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:9). But the symbolism of lamp, springs, rivers and water suggest spiritual life and growth (Psa. 1:3; 84:6-7; 119:105; Jer. 2:13). The falling of the star and the embittering of the waters connect the two ideas suggesting a perversion of truth and a rise of apostasy. This trumpet, then, may foretell the condition of the church in the Middle Ages. 4) In the fourth trumpet, on the other hand, a third of the sources of light (sun, moon and stars) are darkened, in other words, the symbols of truth are partially eclipsed. This could represent the rise of secularism after the Middle Ages or the deepening of apostasy in the church during the Middle Ages (Exod. 10:21-23; Job 38:2; Isa. 8:22; John 1:4-11; 3:18-21).

5) With the fifth trumpet the partial darkness of the fourth trumpet becomes total and worldwide (Rev. 9:1-2; Luke 8:31). If the fourth trumpet represents the rise of secularism after the Middle Ages, the fifth would represent the triumph of secularism in the modern age. With God and truth totally eclipsed, sinful mankind is left to the demonic torment of suicidal desires (Rev. 9:3-11; Luke 8:31; 10:17-20). The only safety is in genuine relationship with God (Rev. 9:4).

6) While the first five trumpets have many allusions to ancient Egypt, the sixth trumpet particularly echoes biblical accounts regarding ancient Babylon. There are references to the river of Babylon (Rev. 9:14), the idolatry of Babylon (Rev. 9:20; Dan 5:4, 23) and the fall of Babylon (Rev. 9:21; Isa 47:9-12). There are also many parallels with the sixth bowl (Euphrates, battle language, demonic imagery– Rev. 16:12-16). So the sixth trumpet portrays the rise of end-time Babylon, with its opposition to God arising from within the church (Rev. 17:4-5).

The readings in this blog are an attempt to take seriously the exegetical meaning of the trumpets, how the imagery would have been understood when it was originally written. It also takes seriously the apocalyptic nature of the trumpets and God’s ability to foretell the main lines of history in John’s future. The trumpets are not easy to understand, but when the imagery is read with an eye to its Old Testament backgrounds, the meaning is easier to follow.

The Time When the Trumpets Begin (Trumpets 3)

The throwing down of the censer (or fire) in Rev. 8:5 suggests to some Adventist interpreters that the events that follow (8:6—the blowing of the seven trumpets) are after the close of probation. This would mean that the seven trumpets represent end-time events rather than a forecast of events throughout the course of Christian history. But a number of indications in the text make this very unlikely.

First, the pattern in the first half of the book of Revelation (the churches, the seals and the trumpets) is that the visions begin with the New Testament era and cover events throughout Christian history. Second, whatever the casting down of the censer (fire) in Rev. 8:5 means, probation is clearly not yet closed at the time of the sixth trumpet. The intercession at the altar is still taking place (Rev. 9:13) and the gospel is still going forth (10:11; 11:3-6, 12-13). That the “interlude” of Revelation 10:1 – 11:13 should be included in our understanding of the sixth trumpet is shown in a following blog. Chapter ten and eleven are part of the sixth trumpet, not an independent vision. Finally, the proclamation of the gospel ends and probation fully closes only at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev 10:7). So the seven trumpets of Revelation cover the whole course of history from John’s day to the close of probation and final events.

Major parts of Revelation DO concern end-time events in human history. But when John goes there, he makes it fairly clear that he is doing so. While each of the seven-fold series (churches, seals and trumpets) ends in the final era, the central focus of the second half of the book is almost entirely focused on the last events of earth’s history.

The Meaning of “Trumpets” in the Bible (Trumpets 2)

The seven trumpets section of Revelation (particularly 8:2 – 9:21) is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to interpret. Faithful Adventist students of the Bible have not come to agreement on its meaning through the years, even though Ellen White makes passing reference to the passage in the book Great Controversy. There are enough biblical and historical issues with Josiah Litch’s explanations (referenced in GC) that consensus on the passage’s meaning has been elusive. But there are aspects of the passage that are reasonably clear and one of these is how it builds on the symbolic meanings that trumpets have exhibited throughout the Bible.

The Greek words for trumpets (nouns) and trumpeting (verbs) occur 144 times in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT. The vast majority of those references (105 out of 144) concern either signaling in warfare, worship and prayer, or a combination of both. The clearest single passage on the meaning of trumpets is Num. 10:8-10. According to this text, in ancient Israel the trumpets were always to be handled by the priests (10:8), even when being used in the context of warfare. So there is a spiritual meaning that Israel was to discern in the blowing of trumpets.

The defense of the nation of Israel was considered a sacred task in the OT. So when Israel went out into battle, the trumpet priests went with them. The sounding of the trumpets not only indicated the moves that the battle line was to make, it represented a prayer for God’s intervention in that battle (10:9). Likewise, in the temple and on the feast days, the blowing of trumpets invited God’s spiritual intervention in the lives of His people (10:10). So the core meaning of trumpets in the OT is covenant prayer, calling on God to remember His people, both individually and collectively.

Most of the occurrences of trumpets and trumpeting in the NT are in Revelation, chapters 8 and 9. At first glance it might seem that signaling in warfare is the primary meaning in the seven trumpets of Revelation. But the connection between the trumpets and the fifth seal (see previous blog) underlines the prayer theme as the primary one here too. The trumpets are a response to the prayers of the suffering saints of God (Rev. 6:9-10; 8:2-6, 13). It assures them that God has noticed their suffering and, even though He may seem silent in their experience, He is already acting in history against those who have persecuted them. So the trumpets are more than just an outline of history, they contain a deep theological message for those who are suffering. God’s silence in the experience of His saints is not the whole picture. He is often responding in ways that we may not detect until later.

The Purpose and Key Themes of the Seven Trumpets (Trumpets 1)

The seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2 – 11:18) build on a view of the incense altar (8:3-4) and contain an “interlude” (10:1 – 11:13) which offers a view of God’s people in the midst of the horrific sixth trumpet (9:12-21).

The purpose of the trumpets is clarified in connection with the fifth seal (Rev. 6:9-11). In the daily (tamid) service of the temple in John’s time, incense was collected at the Altar of Burnt Offering and then offered at the Altar of Incense in the Holy Place of the earthly sanctuary. At the close of that service in the temple of Jesus’ day, seven priests blew seven trumpets to indicate that the sacrifice was complete. In the opening of the trumpets (Rev. 8:3-4) there is reference to the two different altars in the context of the daily service of the temple. The first altar mentioned is a reference to the Burnt Offering Alter of the fifth seal. The second altar mentioned is the Alter of Incense. Reference to both altars and to the prayers of the saints in Rev. 8:3-4 connects the trumpets as a whole with the scene in Rev. 6:9-10. The seven trumpets answer the prayers of the saints for judgment on those who have persecuted them (compare also 6:10 with 8:13). The trumpets, therefore, fall on the opponents of God’s people in the course of Christian history.

Our brief survey of the trumpets will introduce the following themes:

1. The Meaning of Trumpets in the Bible.
2. The Time When the Trumpets Begin.
3. The Meaning of the Imagery in the First Six Trumpets.
4. The Relation of the “Interlude” to the Seven Trumpets.
5. The Allusion to Dan. 12 in Rev. 10.

I’ll be exploring the five themes above in future posts.