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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Revelation 8

 

 

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Verse 1

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.

Was - `began to be.'

Silence in heaven about ... half an hour. The last seal being opened, the book of God's plan of redemption is opened for the Lamb to read to the blessed ones. The half-hour's silence contrasts with the loud anthem of the great multitude, taken up by angels (Revelation 7:9-11). It is the solemn introduction to the eternal Sabbath-rest, commencing with the Lamb's reading the book, heretofore sealed, which we cannot know until then. In Revelation 10:4. similarly at the eve of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when the seven thunders uttered their voices, John is forbidden to write them. The seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19) winds up God's vast plan of providence and grace, just as the seventh seal does. So the seventh vial (Revelation 16:17). Not that the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials, though parallel, are repetitions. They each trace the divine action up to the grand consummation in which they all meet, under a different aspect. Thunders, lightnings, an earthquake, and voices, close the seven thunders and the seven seals alike (cf. Revelation 8:5 with Revelation 11:19). Compare at the seventh vial (Revelation 16:18). The half-hour silence is GIVEN TO JOHN between the preceding vision and the following one: it is, on one hand, the solemn introduction to the eternal sabbatism following the seventh seal; on the other, the silence during the incense accompanied prayers which usher in the first of the seven trumpets (Revelation 8:3-5). In the Jewish temple, musical instruments and singing resounded during the whole offering of sacrifices, which formed the first part of the service. But at the offering of incense solemn silence was kept (Psalms 62:1, "My soul waiteth upon God;" margin, 'is silent;' Psalms 65:1, margin), the people praying secretly. The half-hour stillness implies, too, the adoring expectation with which the blessed spirits and angels await the unfolding of God's judgments. A short space; for even an hour is so used (Revelation 17:12; Revelation 18:10; Revelation 18:19).


Verse 2

And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.

The seven angels. Compare the apocryphal Tobit 12: 15, 'I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels which present the prayers of the saints, and go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.' Compare Luke 1:19.

Stood - `stand.'

Seven trumpets. These come in while the martyrs rest until their fellow-servants also, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled: for it is the inhabiters of the earth on whom the judgments fall, as the martyrs prayed that they should (Revelation 6:10). All the ungodly, not merely one portion, are meant; all opponents to the kingdom of Christ and His saints, as is proved by Revelation 11:15; Revelation 11:18, at the close of the seven trumpets. Revelation becomes more special only as it advances, (Revelation 13:1-18; Revelation 16:10; Revelation 17:1-18; Revelation 18:1-24.) By the seven trumpets the world-kingdoms are overturned to make way for Christ's universal kingdom. A martial instrument. War is the general feature of this group of judgments. The first four are connected; and the last three, which alone have Woe, woe, woe (Revelation 8:7-13).


Verse 3

And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.

Another angel - not Christ; for He, in Revelation, is always designated by His proper title. Doubtless, He is the only High Priest, the Angel of the covenant, standing before the golden altar of incense, and, as Mediator, offering up His people's prayers, acceptable before God through the incense of His merit (Malachi 1:11). Here the angel acts as a ministering spirit, just as the 24 elders have vials full of odours, or incense-the prayers of saints-which they present before the Lamb (Revelation 5:8). How precisely their ministry, in perfuming the prayers of the saints, and offering them on the altar of incense (which also Christ is, Hebrews 13:10), is exercised, we know not, but we do know they are not to be prayed to (Revelation 19:2). If we send an offering to the king, the king's messenger is not to appropriate what is due to the king alone.

There was given unto him. The angel does not provide the incense: it is given to him by Christ, whose meritorious obedience and death are the incense rendering the saints' prayers well-pleasing to God. Not the saints give the angel the incense; nor are their prayers identified with it; nor do they offer their prayers to him. Christ alone is the Mediator through and to whom prayer is to be offered.

Offer it with the prayers , [ doesei (Greek #1325) tais (Greek #3588) proseuchais (Greek #4335)] - 'give it TO the prayers,' so rendering them a sweet-smelling savour to God. Christ's merits alone can incense our prayers, though the angelic ministry be employed to attach this incense to the prayers. The saint's praying on earth, and the angel's incensing in heaven, are simultaneous.

All saints - both those in the heavenly rest and those militant on earth. The martyrs' cry is the foremost (Revelation 6:10), and brings down the ensuing judgments.

Golden altar - antitype to the earthly: Christ (Hebrews 13:10; Revelation 6:9).


Verse 4

And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.

The smoke ... which came with the prayers ... ascended up - rather, 'the smoke of the incense FOR (or given TO: understood from Revelation 8:3) the prayers of the saints ascended up, out of the angel's hand, in the presence of God.' The angel merely burns the incense given him by Christ the High Priest, so that its smoke blends with the saints' ascending prayers. The saints themselves are priests; the angels in this priestly ministration are but their fellow-servants (Revelation 19:10).


Verse 5

And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake.

Cast it into (unto) the earth. The hot coals off the altar cast on the earth, symbolize God's fiery judgments about to descend on the Church's foes in answer to the saints' incense-perfumed prayers, which just ascended before God (cf. Revelation 6:10). How marvelous the power of prayers!

There were - `ensued.'

Voices, and thunderings ... 'Aleph (') B place "voices" after "thunderings;" A places it after "lightnings."


Verse 6

And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

Sound - blow the trumpets.


Verse 7

The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

The common feature of the first four trumpets is, the judgments affect natural objects, accessories of life-the earth, trees, grass, sea, rivers, fountains, light of the sun, moon, and stars. The last three, the woe-trumpets (Revelation 8:13), affect men with pain, death, and hell. The language is from the plagues of Egypt, five or six out of the ten exactly corresponding: the hail, fire, WATER turned to blood, darkness, locusts, perhaps the death (Exodus 7:19; Exodus 9:24; Exodus 10:12; Exodus 10:21; Revelation 9:18). Judicial retribution in kind characterizes the four first-those elements which were abused punishing their abusers.

Mingled with. A B 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, read, 'IN blood.' So in the second and third vials ( Revelation 16:3-4).

Upon the earth - `unto the earth.' A B 'Aleph ('), Vulgate, Syriac, add, 'and the third of the earth was burnt up.' So under the third trumpet, the third of the rivers is affected; also, under the sixth trumpet, the third part of men are killed. In Zechariah 13:8-9, this tripartite division appears-two parts killed, a third preserved. Here vice versa-two-thirds escape, one-third is smitten. Fire was the predominant element.

All green grass - no longer a third, but all is burnt up.


Verse 8

And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;

As it were - not literally: a mountain-like burning mass: in allusion to Jeremiah 51:25; Amos 7:4.

Third part of the sea became blood. In the parallel second vial, the whole sea becomes blood. The overthrow of Jericho (type of the anti-Christian Babylon), after which Israel under Joshua (Jesus) took possession of Canaan (type of Christ's and His people's kingdom), is perhaps alluded to in the SEVEN trumpets, which end in the overthrow of Christ's foes, and the setting up of His kingdom. On the seventh day, at the seventh time, when the seven priests blew the seven rams' horn trumpets, the people shouted, and the walls fell flat; then ensued the blood-shedding of the foe. A mountain-like fiery mass would not naturally change water into blood; nor would the third of ships be destroyed. Symbolical interpreters take ships here to be churches. For [ ploion (Greek #4143)] "ships" is in the gospels the term for the apostolic vessel in which Christ taught. The first churches were in the shape of an inverted ship; and [ diefthareesan (Greek #1311)] destroyed is used of heretical corruptings (1 Timothy 6:5).


Verse 9

And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 10

And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;

A lamp - a torch.


Verse 11

And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

Symbolizers interpret the star fallen from heaven a chief minister (Arius, etc., or some future false teacher) falling from his high place, and instead of shining with heavenly light as a star, becoming a torch lit with earthly fire and smouldering with smoke. Wormwood, though medicinal, if used as ordinary water, would not only be disagreeable, but also fatal; so 'heretical wormwood changes the sweet Siloas of Scripture into deadly Marahs' (Wordsworth). Contrast the converse change of Marah water into sweet, (Exodus 15:23, etc.) Alford instances the conversion of water into fire-water-ardent spirits-which may destroy a third of the ungodly in the latter days.


Verse 12

And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

Third part - not total obscuration, as in the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-13). This, therefore, comes between the prayers of the martyrs under the fifth seal, and the last overwhelming judgments on the ungodly under the sixth, just before Christ's coming.

The night likewise - withdrew a third of the light which the bright Eastern moon and stars ordinarily afford.


Verse 13

And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound! An angel. 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate, Syrian, Coptic, read, for "angel," 'an eagle:' symbol of judgment descending like the king of birds pouncing on the prey. Alluding to Matthew 24:28. Compare this fourth trumpet and the flying eagle with the fourth seal introduced by the fourth living creature: "like a flying eagle," Revelation 4:7; Revelation 6:7-8 : the aspect of Jesus presented by the fourth evangelist. John is compared in the cherubim, by primitive interpretation, to a flying eagle: Christ's divine majesty is set forth in the Gospel, His judicial visitations in the Revelation, of John. Contrast "another angel" (messenger) with "the everlasting gospel," Revelation 14:6.

Through the midst of heaven - `in the mid-heaven,' at the meridian: where the eagle is conspicuous to all.

The inhabiters of the earth - the "men of the world," whose 'portion is in this life' (Psalms 17:14); upon whom the martyrs had prayed that their blood might be avenged (Revelation 6:10). Not for personal revenge, but zeal for the honour of God against the foes of God and His Church (Psalms 139:21-22).

The other - `the remaining voice.'

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 8:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-8.html. 1871-8.

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