The sixth seal ends with the wicked aware that Jesus is returning to earth to rescue His people, and crying for the rocks and mountains to fall on them. They, who have fought against God’s truth, would rather be buried alive than to see the face of the One who died to save them, the One who they refused to obey and whose followers they killed and tormented.
“And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.” Revelation 8:2
Now John sees another word-picture; again this does not happen after the one we just read, but it is a separate view. Here we are briefly introduced to the seven angels with the seven trumpets; but then it quickly moves to another part of the story.
“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. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand.” Revelation 8:3, 4
We are about to start hearing about the Seven Trumpets, which is another set of word-pictures showing the events of history from another angle; this time from the main wars and battles that had some effect on God’s people. It seems also that these seven trumpets all talk about forces that attacked Rome; the first four; Pagan Rome, as it was breaking up, and the last three; Papal Rome, especially as it persecuted God’s people.
But first we are shown something from near the end of the sixth seal. It is put in here to give encouragement to God’s dear children. Incense is special herbs or spices, that when burned make a sweet smelling perfume in the smoke. This ‘angel’ here, shown offering sweet incense with the prayers before God, is actually Jesus, our Saviour, and He is pleading the sweetness of His perfect life and His spilt blood before His Father.
This is the ‘incense’ that makes our prayers able to be heard and answered by our Heavenly Father. It is only through Jesus’ sacrifice that we can even ask for forgiveness or help. We are told this so we can have courage that Jesus is there pleading for us and offering the precious incense. As we confess our sins and plead the virtues of Christ’s atoning blood, our prayers ascend to heaven, fragrant with the merits of our Saviour’s character. Notwithstanding our unworthiness, we are to remember that there is One who can take away sin, and who is willing and anxious to save the sinner. With His own blood He paid the penalty for all wrongdoers. Every sin confessed before God with a contrite heart, He will remove.
We are shown this scene from the sixth seal as encouragement, because the Seven Trumpets about to start are going to show terrible scenes of war and strife. God wants us to know that our Redeemer is on the job, and we can have our prayers offered up by Him and receive help.
Remember though, that the incense is only offered with our prayers, if we don’t ask for what we need and want, we will not receive it. We need to take all our needs and problems to the Father, through Jesus. Especially should we pray about the sin problems that we see in our lives.
God does not come and snatch bad habits or sins out of our lives without our permission, but the Holy Spirit will work with us to get rid of all the sin and selfishness from our lives if we pray to the Heavenly Father, claiming only the sacrifice of Jesus for us, and ask for the Holy Spirit and the Holy angels to do this work in our lives.
It is a partnership; we choose and ask, the Heavenly Powers enable us to make it happen. There is Power for each one of us to overcome all bad habits and sins in our lives. Not only to forgive them when they happen, but to change our hearts and supply the victory, so they stop happening. “Ask; and ye shall receive.” John 16:24
“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.” Revelation 8:5
This is a very important glimpse of an event yet future but which gets closer every day. Soon, no one knows how soon, the intercessory ministry of our High Priest in heaven, Jesus Christ, will come to its close. There is a time pointed out in various parts of the Bible when His work is finished. He has done all that can be done to ransom the lost race. This is when He makes His solemn announcement; “He that is righteous; let him be righteous still and he that is unjust, let him be unjust still.” (Revelation 22:11)
Just before this time there will be a lot happening on earth; the ‘voices, thunderings, and earthquakes’ mentioned here indicate messages being sounded; upheavals and wars; terrible troubles; as mankind make their final decisions. The faithful will be still under the care of Jesus and the heavenly angels, and although they will experience distress, they will not be left to the rule of the powers of darkness.
Now the scene turns to the first of the seven trumpets.
“And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. 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.” Revelation 8:6, 7
This begins the word pictures Jesus uses to describe certain wars and events that happen from John’s time to the coming of Jesus. It is important to remember that these things are symbols, and so they mean something more than what they seem to say. A trumpet is a symbol of warning and war.
These Seven Trumpets all talk about forces that affected the Roman Empire, first Pagan Rome and then Papal Rome. This is the third set of ‘seven’ in the book of Revelation. The letters showed events of God’s people; the seals showed God’s professed people interacting with the world; these trumpets show events of the world as they affect God’s people.
The time covered by this first prophecy is from 395 to 419 A. D. It is the time when the Barbarians began to come from the north and attack areas of the Roman Empire. ‘Hail’ in this prophecy represents that they came from the cold lands of the north. Just as hail destroys the gardens, so these warriors destroyed everything in their path.
You will notice that these word-pictures keep saying one-third of this and that; this is because there were three main parts to the Roman Empire after Constantine left his throne divided among his three sons.
The Goths, under their leader Alaric, who called himself “the scourge of God,” attacked the failing pagan Roman Empire in the west. The ‘fire and blood’ talked about here refers to the terrible slaughter that these savage hordes brought upon the areas they ravaged. They burned whole towns and destroyed good farming areas and left them desolate. Finally Alaric was conquered in 403.
But more hordes of barbarians poured down from the north to attack the Roman empire under the haughty Rhodogast, who came with his armies almost to the gates of the city of Rome itself. After this, Alaric again returned, invaded Italy in 408, and in 410 he besieged, took, and sacked Rome, and died the same year. In 412 the Goths voluntarily left Italy. The angel’s trumpet message was a very clear picture of what happened.
“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; 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.” Revelation 8:8-9
We see here more attacks on a ‘third-part’ of the Roman Empire. The period covered by this trumpet is from 428 to 476; and the prophecy was fulfilled in the terrible Genseric, King of the Vandals, and “Monarch of the Sea;” whose ravages gave us in human language the term “Vandalism;” meaning willful, wanton, and ignorant destruction.
This time the force came from the south; from Africa, and so the prophecy says a ‘burning mountain’ cast into the sea. He formed a great navy with many war-ships and raided and took away slaves and treasure from the areas of the Roman Empire.
In 455, just at the time the people of Rome had risen against the Emperor Maximus, and stoned him and thrown his body into the river, Genseric arrived with his warships. He came into the city and ravaged it, taking away all the wealth he could find, including the things from the Temple at Jerusalem that had been brought there by Titus when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70.
Finally the emperor of Rome decided to make himself a large navy to try and defeat Genseric’s war ships. Money was gathered with difficulty, and a huge navy was built. They sailed down to Carthage, where Genseric’s fleet was located, and could have conquered it, but the clever Genseric said he would surrender, and asked for five days to ‘make terms’.
All he did was gather his forces and attack the Emperor’s fleet. During the battle, Genseric would take large barges full of burnable material and towing them close to the Roman ships, would set them on fire and let them sail into the other ships, setting them on fire also. How true the idea of a ‘mountain of fire being thrown into the sea’ really was. Genseric destroyed the Roman fleet and before his death saw the western part of the Roman Empire totally ruined.
When you study history in the light of Bible prophecy, you see that those who do wicked, cruel actions, have wicked, cruel happenings come back on them sooner or later.
“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; 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.” Revelation 8:10-11
Now another terrible force is seen coming against the dying Empire of Rome. Some people get confused as this says the ‘star’ came from heaven, but we have to remember that these word-pictures are all symbols to describe the forces who attacked Rome and brought about the prophecy that it would be divided, and made place for the strange ‘Little Horn’ kingdom, the papacy, to be set up. The prophecy points out that this ‘scourge’ would be brief but dramatic, like a blazing meteorite in the sky, it soon vanishes. The period covered by this trumpet was as brief as a burning star, 451-453.
By this prophecy we are directed to that dreadful scourge, the haughty Attila with his frightful Huns, who, during his reign, became the “terror of the world.” Attila actually called himself the “Scourge of God;” “Grandson of Nimrod, nurtured in Engedi, by the grace of God, King of the Huns, Goths, Danes, and Medes, the terror of the world.” And “It is a saying worthy of the ferocious pride of Attila that the grass never grew on the spot where his horse had trod.” He “alternately insulted and invaded the East and the West, and urged the rapid downfall of the Roman Empire.”
The ‘fountains of waters’ refers to the area that he mostly attacked, which was where most of the rivers started, in the regions of the Alps, and on the portions of the empire where the rivers flow to most of Europe in all directions. It was really the area of the “fountains of waters.” Wormwood is a very bitter tasting herb; Attila was horribly cruel.
Finally he demanded Honoria, the daughter of the Emperor, to be his bride. At first this was refused, but finally as his ferocious attacks came again, she was given to him. There was a huge drunken feast at the wedding, and the next day when Attila did not appear from his room, his men left him alone for a while, thinking he didn’t want to be disturbed. Finally when he did not answer their loud cries, they went to see what was wrong. He was found dead, as the result of an artery in his throat having burst, drowning him in his own blood.
This is what alcohol can do. Remember the other conqueror that died as a result of a drunken feast? It was Alexander the Great.
“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.” Revelation 8:12
This trumpet shows the blotting out of the Pagan Roman government. Sun, moon, and stars are here used as symbols of the ruling powers in the government; its emperor, consuls, and senators. A. D. 476 or 479. The ‘sun’ is a good symbol for the Roman Emperor as some of them had claimed to represent the sun god on earth.
The Emperorship was gone from Rome and an Ostrogoth king, ruled there, but some power remained in the Eastern part, Constantinople, where the imperial symbols had been taken and an Emperor still reigned.
The imperial Roman power, of which either Rome or Constantinople had been the seat, whether in the West or the East, was no longer recognized in Italy, and the third part of the sun was smitten, till it emitted no longer the faintest rays. The power of the Caesars was unknown in Italy, and a Gothic king reigned over Rome.
But though the third part of the sun was smitten, and the Roman imperial power was at an end in the city of the Caesars, yet the moon and the stars still shone, or glimmered, for a little longer in the western part. The consulship and the senate [‘the moon and the stars’] were not abolished by king Theodoric.
Then the general of the emperor of the East, Belisarius attacked and defeated the Goths (AD 552). In the order given in the prophecy, the consulate ended and finally the senate was no more.
Justinian transferred the power in Rome to the Bishop of Rome, and worked to promote the growing power of the Papacy. This fulfilled a prophecy we will study later; “and the Dragon (here meaning Pagan Rome) gave him (the Papacy) his power, and his seat (city of Rome) and great authority.” Revelation 13:2
It is amazing how long and complicated historic events are told in a few words in the prophecies.
“And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.” Daniel 7:24
Just a quick look at how Daniel fits in with Revelation; they are really one prophetic whole, although they are written centuries apart.
The prophecy said that Rome would be divided into ten parts. It was not going to be conquered by another world kingdom, and that is just what happened. But at first when the Roman Empire began to collapse, there were more than ten ‘kings’ attacking it. There were eighteen. But during the time of the first three Trumpets, some disappeared, moved away, joined with other nations, or were wiped out, until only ten remained.
From the northern to the southern limits of the Western Empire, these ten, as they stood in 476 at the extinction of the Empire, were as follows: 1. The Angles and Saxons in Britain. 2. The Franks in all Gaul (France). 3. The Alemanni in North Switzerland. 4. The Burgundians in west Switzerland and southeast Gaul. 5. The Visigoths in southwest Gaul and Spain. 6. The Suevi in that part of Spain which is now Portugal. 7. The Ostrogoths in what is now Austria. 8. The Lombards in Noricum 9. The Heruli in Italy. 10. The Vandals in North Africa, with capital at Carthage.
Now before Papal Rome could fully get its power, three of these nations had to be ‘plucked up by the roots’. The three that were removed were the Vandals, the Ostrogoths and the Heruli. They were destroyed by 538 AD and the Papacy then ruled where the Caesars had ruled before.
Bible prophecy always comes true, exactly.
“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.” Revelation 8:13
This is letting us know that however bad the first four trumpet-scourges were, the last three were to be much worse.