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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary

Revelation 8

 

 

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Verse 1

THE SEVEN SEALS

This section might also be entitled “The things which shall be hereafter.” It is assumed that the true church is not upon the earth at the beginning of chapter 4, but that the translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 has taken place. Christendom is here, but the church is with the Lord in the air. To some this may seem a bold assumption, but not to those who have pursued the study of the earlier books in this commentary. To them it will appear natural and proper that the church should have been “caught up” before the judgments herein enumerated are poured forth. We cannot rehearse the proof of this, but it is significant that after chapter 3, the word “church” is not again found in this book. At the close of that chapter (v.21), Christ appears seated with His Father on His Throne, “from thence expecting till his enemies be made his footstool” (Hebrews 10:13). The call to John to “come up hither” (Revelation 4:1), is also indicative of the fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, and, in a figure, set before us what will be true of the whole church in that day.

THE THRONE, THE LAMB AND THE BOOK

Coming to the text we have in chapters 4-5, the vision of the Throne, the Lamb and the Book, which constitutes an introduction to what follows. The vision of the Throne is limited to Revelation 4:1-3, the enthroned elders verses 4 and 5, and the four living creatures (Revelation 4:6-8 RV). It is commonly felt that the elders represent the glorified church, but there is no agreement as to the interpretation of the living creatures. It is notable however, that in this chapter both the elders and living creatures worship the Lord because of creation (Revelation 5:9-11), and that redemption is not named until the next chapter. The seven sealed book (Revelation 5:1-4), is the revelation of the judgments to follow and seems even to be identical with the judgments themselves. This last thought is suggested by what follows, when Christ in His kingly character comes forward and opens the book (Revelation 5:5-7). It is He only who prevails to open the book either in the sense of making its contents known or bringing its judgments to pass. His adoration follows on the part of the living creatures and the elders (Revelation 5:8-10), the angels (Revelation 5:11-12), and the whole universe (Revelation 5:12; Revelation 5:14). Redemption is here praised, for it is as Redeemer of men that He has obtained this prerogative to judge men. Revelation 5:9 should be read in the RV, which does not include the living creatures in redemption but limits it to men.

SIX SEALS OPENED

The introduction is followed by what Erdman calls the Progression, or advance movement of the narrative (chap. 6), in which the judgments are seen actually to take place. “Come and see” in each case should be limited to “Come” (RV), for the words are not a command to the seer, but to the judgment. He is not called upon to observe what is about to come, but that which is about to come is commanded to “Come.” The rider on the white horse (Revelation 6:2) was identified with Christ in Synthetic Bible Studies, but the author now considers it more consistent to identify him with the “man of sin,” and at that particular period in his career when, at the beginning of Daniel’s seventieth week (Daniel 9:24), he takes the power into his hands as the head of the federated nations of the Roman Empire. As the result of his rule peace is taken from the earth as symbolized by the red horse (Revelation 6:3-4); famine follows the black horse (Revelation 6:5-6), and pestilence and death “over the fourth part of the earth” (Revelation 6:7-8). All this time there are faithful witnesses for Christ, who will not bow the knee to the impostor, and who suffer martyrdom in consequence (Revelation 6:9-11). Their day of vengeance is coming, but not until their number is complete. The opening of the sixth seal brings this hour near (Revelation 6:12-17). The student is requested to compare this chapter with Matthew 24, where the same period is covered prophetically, and the same events referred to.

SAVED REMNANTS

We now reach the first “parenthesis” mentioned in the first lesson (chap. 7). There is no progression in this parenthetical part although it is both retrospective and prospective in its application. It tells of certain “sealed” ones, and others, who were in the Great Tribulation and came out of it, and in that respect it is prospective; yet it points back to the fifth seal, in which respect it is retrospection. In other words, according to the law of recurrence with which we became familiar in the Old Testament, chapter 7 gives in detail what Revelation 6:9-11 gave in outline; it tells who the martyrs are and figuratively, how they are preserved. There appears to be a saved remnant of .Jews (Revelation 7:1-8), and also of Gentiles (Revelation 7:9-17).

THE GREAT TRIBULATION

This is that period of unexampled trouble predicted in so many places in the Old Testament. It involves the whole earth (Revelation 3:10), and yet distinctively applies to the Jews who in a national capacity will at this time have returned to Palestine, though still unconverted so far as their acceptance of their Messiah is concerned (Jeremiah 30:7). Its duration is 3 1/2 years, or the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week (Daniel 9:24-27). The “man of sin” will be in power (Matthew 24:15; 1 Thessalonians 2:4) for Satan will have come down to earth having great wrath (Revelation 12:12; Revelation 13:4-5). And yet it will be for some a time of salvation as chapter 7 shows, a salvation brought about by the suffering no doubt, and by the transcendant event of the church’s rapture which will have previously taken place. At the close of the tribulation Christ will come in glory with his saints, delivering Israel, judging the Gentile nations, destroying the “man of sin,” binding Satan, and introducing his millennial reign on the earth.

QUESTIONS

1. Where is the true church supposed to be at the beginning of this lesson?

2. Give some reasons for believing this.

3. What do chapters 4 and 5 constitute?

4. What does the seven-sealed book represent?

5. What word describes chapter 6?

6. With what earlier chapter in the New Testament is this compared?

7. What word describes chapter 7?

8. Name the two classes of saved ones in the Tribulation.

9. Define The Great Tribulation.

10. What great event follows that period?


Verses 2-19

THE SEVEN TRUMPETS

We have here another illustration of the law of recurrence, for in these chapters we are going over the ground of the last, though certain features are being added which were not then revealed. In other words, it is still the Tribulation Period.

INTRODUCTION (Revelation 8:2-5)

In the previous lesson the Introduction included the vision of “The Throne, the Lamb and the Book,” while here it is the revelation of the angel and the incense. There is no satisfactory interpretation of this feature any more than of the “silence in heaven” revealed previously. Some would say that “the prayers of all saints” are those of the martyrs of the earlier chapter crying out for avenging, not for their own sakes but that the honor of God might be maintained in the face of His enemies. The incense is identified with the intercession of Christ on their behalf, and the answer is symbolized in what follows not only in Revelation 8:5, but all which results therefrom in the remainder of this chapter and the next.

PROGRESSION (Revelation 8:6 to Revelation 9:21)

The first trumpet (8:7) symbolizes a judgment falling on the earth through the ordinary powers of nature. The “blood” may be caused by the destructive power of the large hailstones. The second trumpet (Revelation 8:8-9) symbolizes judgments resulting from extraordinary acts of nature, volcanic and marine? The third (Revelation 8:10-11), seems to point to suffering superinduced by superhuman agencies “a great star from heaven.” Is it identical with the allusion to Satan (Revelation 12:7-9)? The fourth (Revelation 8:12-13) is suffering caused by the diminished influence of the heavenly bodies, while the fifth and sixth trumpets (Revelation 9:1-21) again specifying superhuman agencies, indicate their tormenting power as particularly directed toward men. In the other instances while humanity felt the infliction yet it was indirect, whereas here it is direct.

PARENTHESIS (Revelation 10:1 to Revelation 11:14)

In chapter 10, the revelation of the “mighty angel” and the “little book” does not easily lend itself to any definite interpretation. Some identify the “angel” with our Lord Himself, and make the “little book” mean the supplemental revelation of the “beast” soon to follow (Rev. 11:13) together with the whole story of the awful period of his reign. Chapter 11 is plainer. It refers to Jerusalem during the reign of the “beast” or “man of sin,” “forty and two months” being equivalent to the last 3 1/2 years of Daniel’s seventieth week already referred to. The two witnesses testifying with supernatural power during this time have been identified with Moses and Elijah returned to the earth in the flesh for that ministry. Revelation 11:6, strikingly parallels the illustrations of their earlier power, while the mysterious manner in which they were taken away from earth, the one buried by God’s own hand and the other translated having never seen death, add their contribution to the probability of this application of the chapter.

CONSUMMATION (Revelation 11:15-19)

Corresponds somewhat to the ending of the revelation of the seven seals (Revelation 8:1); i.e., it seems to bring us up to the end or final climax, and yet to halt just short to it in order to retrace the ground for fuller detail.

Throughout these visions frequent allusions are made to the destructive forces of the heavens, “the power of the air,” and also to conflicts of armies on the earth which suggests modern methods of warfare. Military airships stagger men not so much by their spectacle as by their slaughter. They seem to be faint gray linear objects silhouetted against the sky, but some of them carry torpedoes, and are able to pursue a battleship and send it to the bottom. Was Tennyson “also among the prophets,” when he wrote:

Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new; That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do; For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be; Saw the heavens filled with commerce, argosies of magic sails, Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales; Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew From the nations’ airy navies, grappling in the central blue; Far along the world-wide whisper of the south wind rushing warm, With the standards of the people plunging through the thunder storm.

Till the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were furled In the parliament of man, the federation of the world.

QUESTIONS

1. What familiar law of rhetoric is illustrated in this lesson?

2. How do some interpret what we call the Introduction?

3. Interpret the six trumpets.

4. How do some interpret the “little book”?

5. Locate the forty and two months.

6. With whom are the two witnesses identified?

7. What modern invention of warfare is suggested by a part of the vision?

8. What modern poet is quoted?

 


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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Revelation 8:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/revelation-8.html. 1897-1910.

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