Summary: As a part of Gods judgment against a sinful world many natural disastors will take place that will cause much sorrow on earth. Gods intent is for repentence, but will man listen?
The entire rest of the judgments on earth are contained underneath the seventh seal to the Lamb’s scroll. We are going to see seven trumpets blast, seven plagues, and seven bowls poured out - all under this one seal. After this, God’s judgment of the earth and its king will be complete - but there will be a lot of destruction before that happens.
Revelation is full of symbols - but not everything is a symbol. In this chapter I think everything is very literal - though John is describing things the best he knows how from his frame of reference.
Silence in heaven - now that’s a concept. We read in chapter 4 that the angels constantly sing praises to God - there is a never ending worship service in heaven - except here. Now - silence reigns for a half an hour. At least it seemed that way to John - there is, of course, no time in heaven. All creatures are anticipating what God is about to do - it is solemn and foreboding - like the calm in the eye of a hurricane.
After the silence John sees these seven angels given seven trumpets. The seven trumpet judgments involve unprecedented natural disasters, unbearable demonic attacks, and unimaginable warfare. Trumpets were used to call an army to battle, sound the alarm, or call an assembly. Here it is God’s battle cry of judgment against a sinful earth.
Verses 3 - 4
But first something I think unusual happens - God receives prayers as incense. Incense was very important in Tabernacle worship - and here we are told that this incense represents the prayers of God’s people.
What are the prayers here? Look at 6:9-10, where the saints cry out for God’s judgment against a sinful world. People often blame God for judging the world - like its unfair or something - which it is not. But notice here that all the trumpet, plagues, and bowl judgments come after our prayers for justice arise before God. We are part of this judgment.
What I want to point out is that it is okay. Yes, Jesus said don’t judge lest ye be judged - but we see over and over people in the Bible crying out for justice - and here we see God’s justice finally meted out on a rebellious and sinful man. Our judgment is faulty because it is comparative - "I’m better than you." God’s judgment is right because He is completely good - and we join in that judgment by also asking for His justice.
So our prayers are then joined with God’s fire - fire was often the way God gave out judgment - remember Sodom and Gomorrah? Lots of noise and light announces - something big is coming!
This judgment is like the 7th plague in Egypt where God rained hail down on that land and destroyed the crops. We don’t know if this is volcanic in origin or a terrible thunderstorm ("fire" can mean "lightning") - but the effects are devastating. With fruit bearing trees and grass for livestock gone on a third of the earth - famine will likely come.
Verses 6 - 7
Joel 2:30-31 predicted this event.
Joel 2:30-32 "And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. ESV
Verses 8 - 9
This could be a tremendous volcanic explosion - causing a giant tidal wave that destroys one third of the world’s shipping fleet. What causes the water to turn to blood - or at least appear like blood and be poisonous? One explanation - a huge red tide. There is some speculation that the phytoplankton (who eat carbon dioxide and deplete ocean oxygen) that make up a red tide - which is deadly to marine life - can be created by outgasing from volcanic activity undersea. Water and Carbon Dioxide are the most abundant gases released from a volcano.
Imagine a huge volcanic event - not just one fault but many faults coming apart - releasing massive amounts of gas, including carbon dioxide - which creates the biggest red tide ever seen - enough to kill one third of all marine life. Just in the summer of 2005 a huge "dead zone" appeared in the Gulf of Mexico - one person calling it one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of Florida.
Some suggest that this is really a meteor or asteroid - and that is a possibility - but I lean towards something more terrestrial based on what happens in verses 10 and 11.