In Revelation 4, Jesus appeared before the throne of God and received from God the title deed to the earth in a scroll form. This scroll was bound with seven seals, and as Jesus unfastened each of the seals, a different judgment rolled down from heaven and worked to purge Creation of the rebellion of mankind and the dominion of Satan. The first four seals each unleashed one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the fifth and sixth seals unleashed the wrath of God like nothing before seen.
When we arrive at Revelation 8, we find the Lamb (Jesus) opening the last of the seven seals. In opening this seal, there will be seven angels who will blow seven trumpets. By the time the seventh trumpet is blown, in chapter 16, there will be seven bowls of God’s wrath poured out on the earth. Even though the previous six seals were absolutely horrifying in their magnitude, this seventh seal will bring unimaginable devastation on the planet.
The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. – Habakkuk 2:20
As Jesus opens the final seal to the scroll, affirming His authority and entitlement as Ruler and Sovereign of all of Creation, John sees the roaring praise chorus of heaven lull into a quiet hush. No more are the 24 elders singing praises. The angelic beings that fill the corridors of heaven have all been silence. The innumerable mass of saints that have been cheering in worship all stand still and quiet. All of heaven goes eerily silent for about half an hour. Why? Perhaps as the final seal is seen and understood, there is a gravity over what is about to occur. Through this final seal the long-suffering God will finally pour out His justice and wrath on the earth. Every being in heaven holds his tongue and awaits the judgment of God.
The silence is broken when an angel approaches. Here John tells us that there is a heavenly altar where the angel offered incense along with the prayers of the saints. The fragrance of the incense rose with the prayers in the presence of God. Finally, the angel cast his incense-filled censer at the earth. Much of the sights that John saw here in heaven mirror the Old Testament Tabernacle with its altar of incense and a censer. In the tabernacle, the priest would fill the censer with incense and fire from the altar and then would walk through the people to sanctify and ceremoniously cleanse them. Now, the angel filled up his heavenly censer with the prayers of the saints and the fire of God. The earth was to be cleansed and purified by the wrath of God and the prayers of the saints.
When the fire-filled censer crashed into the earth, the earth shook with thunder and an earthquake, and the sky crackled with lightning. Following this dramatic show by this angel, seven other angels prepared to blow seven trumpets that they had with them. Much like the seven seals, each of these trumpets would carry with it a certain purifying and powerful event.
And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. – Joel 2:30
When the first trumpet sounded, hail and fire mingled with blood rained down from heaven. The trumpet judgments would have some striking similarities to the plagues that God had poured out on Egypt. Like the hail and fire that came from heaven in Egypt, this first trumpet catastrophe would bring with it the devastation of crops and livestock as farms around the world would be crushed and burned with falling hail and fire. Famine had begun earlier, but now, the wrath of God was falling on the crops and was absolutely devastating the earth’s greenery and food supply.
Reflect: Read Joel 2. What similarities do you see with that prophecy and what is happening here in Revelation?