Seven Trumpets Overview

An overview of the series of seven trumpets and the several intervening events between the sixth and seventh trumpets– Revelation 8:7-11:19. 

Horn - Photo by HalGatewood.com on Unsplash
The series of “seven trumpets” follows the same pattern as that of the “seven seals.”
Like the first four seals, the first four trumpets form a distinct group, and the last three are marked off from the rest as the “three woes.”  And like the “seven seals,” several events interrupt the series between the sixth and seventh “trumpets,” and both series are preceded by the “prayers of the saints.” - [Photo by HalGatewood.com on Unsplash].

When the seventh trumpet “sounds,” it is followed by the consummation of the kingdom and the judgment of the dead. Like the “seven seals,” the “seven trumpets” end with a final judgment scene that is punctuated by “flashes of lightning, voices, claps of thunder, an earthquake,” with “great hail” added for good measure.

FIRST FOUR BLASTS

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,” and the first four trumpets affect a “third” of the earth, sea, rivers, and the heavenly luminaries.

But there are differences. The first four seals cause human suffering and death. In contrast, the first four trumpets affect the things necessary for society to function - agriculture, the seas that carried cargo, freshwater supplies, and the light from heavenly bodies.

Men are killed, but only when they drink the “bitter waters” caused by the “third trumpet.” The seven seals are opened by the Lamb, but the seven trumpets are sounded by seven angels.

The change in agency from the “Lamb” to the “seven angels” may reflect the change in focus. The “seven seals” concern primarily the status and fate of the saints (e.g., The “souls under the altar,” the “sealed company,” the “innumerable multitude”). In contrast, the “seven trumpets” target the “inhabitants of the earth” that are hostile to the “Lamb” and his servants.

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

THREE WOES

After the first four trumpets sound, an angel pronounces the arrival of the “three woes,” the last three trumpets. The first four harm things (e.g., agriculture, transportation); the final three harm persons, namely, the “inhabitants of the earth” who remain hostile to the “Lamb” throughout the book - (Revelation 11:10, 12:12, 14:6, 17:2-8).

The “fifth trumpet” introduces the “Abyss,” the place from which all things satanic “ascend” to attack the people of the “Lamb.”

For example, the “beast from the sea” is first seen ascending from the “Abyss” to kill the “two witnesses.” Symbolically, the “sea” and the “Abyss” are identical. And at the end of the age, Satan is released from the “Abyss” for one final attempt to annihilate the “saints” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1, 20:7-10).

When the “Abyss” is unlocked, a horde of demonic creatures compared to “locusts” ascends from it to torment the “men who do not have the seal of God.” In contrast to the first four trumpet blasts, the “locusts” must “not harm the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree.”

The “sixth trumpet” unleashes the force from beyond the “Euphrates River” that kills a third of humanity, and prior to its sounding, “four angels” restrain 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” refuse to repent - the “plagues” unleashed by the fifth and sixth trumpets only succeed in hardening their hearts. Something more is needed to cause their repentance - (Revelation 9:18-21).

The first six trumpet blasts are followed by three events that occur before the seventh and final trumpet sound. First, John receives the “little scroll” that already is open. Next, he is commanded to “measure” the “sanctuary” and “them that worship therein.”

The “measuring of the sanctuary” is followed by the vision of the “two witnesses” who present their prophetic witness to the world. Their ministry coincides with 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” complete their prophetic testimony, the “beast that ascends from the Abyss” kills them, and the “inhabitants of the earth rejoice” over their deaths since their “testimony” torments humanity - (Revelation 11:7-13).

Their deaths cause God to act. The “two witnesses” are raised from the dead, then the “seventh trumpet” sounds. And this event ushers in the consummation of the Kingdom, the judgment of the dead, and the vindication of the righteous.

As with the “sixth seal,” at the conclusion of the “seventh trumpet,” the reader finds himself at the end of the age – the time of judgment and “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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