Revelation 4-7 give us a picture of God being in control and the Lamb fulfilling God’s purposes. In the next section, chapters 8-11, John writes about the opening of the seventh seal.
The first four trumpets sound judgment on natural elements (Rev. 8). The seventh seal begins with silence in heaven (8:1, 2). This is to arrest the attention of John and the reader. Try to imagine a flurry of activity then suddenly 30 minutes of silence. It would grab your attention and build anticipation.
The saints offer up their prayers to God and He answers (8:3-6). He brings partial judgment against the world in 8:7-12. The blood of the persecutors returns on them (8:7). A great world power is cast down (8:8, 9; cf. Jer. 51:1, 25, 42). In 8:10, 11, we see the bitterness of idolatry illustrated by “wormwood”; Deuteronomy 29:18 will help in understanding this. The fourth angel sounds out and men are covered in ignorance; this is the idea of “darkness” (8:21; Eph. 4:18).
The fifth and sixth trumpets sound judgment against mankind in chapter 9. The fifth trumpet heralded the self-destructive nature of sin (9:1-12). The fallen star is Satan who has limited power (9:1; Lk. 10:18). The smoke darkening the sun and air is the idea that the devil’s work darkens the minds of men (9:2; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4; Acts 26:18). The fruits of sin is displayed in 9:3-10 as harm comes to those who are not God’s. Since the judgment lasts five months, it indicates a definite, but not fatal, period of pain. In verse seven there is the sense of victory with crowns, but it is false being something like gold, not gold itself. The king over these is Satan, the “angel of the bottomless pit.” This is the first woe; two more are to come.
The sixth trumpet sounds God’s use of armies to punish the wicked (9:13-21). Judgment is released in the four angels (9:13, 14). It will take place according to God’s plan and purpose, it is not accidental (9:15). The army that is massed is overwhelming and cannot be stopped by the wicked (9:16-19). Humanity, however, is stubborn and not willing to repent under even this punishment (9:20, 21). The sins committed are violations of two basic principles: sin against God (9:20) and sin against man (9:21). Notice, this is not the end, because they are given opportunity to repent; something that will not happen on the Day of Judgment (2 Pet. 3:9-12; Matt. 25:1-13).
In chapter 10, an angel gives John a “little book” to eat. The angel is closely associated with God and comes in judgment (10:1-7). It is a worldwide judgment as indicated by him standing on the sea and land (10:2). Note, there are some things left to God and not revealed to man (10:3, 4). We must respect such things and not speculate, letting our imaginations run wild. The time for judgment has come at this point and the “mystery” is finished (Rev. 10:6, 7).
John then eats the “little book” (10:8-11). This is not the same book as found in chapter 5. In eating it, it is both sweet and bitter. Essentially, this has reference to what is to come in chapters 11-22. The message is sweet in outlining a victorious Savior, but bitter in what it means for the difficulty of the saints and destruction of so many souls.
The sounding of the seventh trumpet is preceded by the marking of God’s people and a reassurance that truth will prevail (Rev. 11).
John measured the temple of God (11:1, 2). The measuring rod is God’s standard given to John by heaven, not something of an earthly or human origin. In the New Testament, the undeniable truth is that the temple is the church (Eph. 2:21, 22; 1 Tim. 3:15). This is a use of Old Testament language to express a New Testament truth. Similarly, the “Gentiles” are the ones who persecute the “temple” (church) as “they tread the holy city under foot,” not literal Gentiles.
In the next section, we see the “two witnesses” are victorious (11:3-14).
The best explanation is to see the two witnesses as the apostles and church/saints (11:3-6). Peter said he and the other apostles were witnesses (Acts 10:39-41). Paul wrote that the church is a “witness,” that is, its existence declares an eternal truth to all (Eph. 3:9-11). These witnesses uphold the light of truth (11:4; Phil. 2:15). They fight with their mouth (11:5; 2 Cor. 10:3-5). Like Elijah, they have power from God to “shut heaven” (11:6).
The two witnesses are persecuted (11:7-10). They finish their testimony the beast makes war with them (11:7). This is similar to what Paul wrote about the restraining influence of the apostles being removed and the man of sin coming to do his destructive work (2 Thes. 2). The great city is Babylon or the world (11:8, 9; cf. 14:8). Contempt is shown to the two witnesses as their bodies are left unburied (11:9). Joy breaks out among the wicked over the death of the witnesses (11:10).
All is not lost, however, because the two witnesses ascend to God (11:11-13). They are “resurrected” and called to heaven (11:11, 12).
This is the second woe, with the third “coming quickly.”
Finally, there is the declaration of victory (11:15-19). God will exert His will and His cause will triumph regardless of the opposition Satan and his followers put up. Nothing will defeat God and His Son, our Savior. Hence, we must be absolutely sure we are allied with the Lamb.
Steven F. Deaton