The Messianic Judgments, 6:1-16:21
2. The judgment of the seven trumpets, 8:6-11:18
i] Sounding the first four trumpetsSynopsis
The day of judgment continues to unfold with the sounding of the trumpets. In the breaking of the seals judgment touched a quarter of the earth, now, with the sounding of the trumpets, judgment extends to a third of the earth. The first trumpet brings hail and fire; the second brings death to the oceans; the third death to the rivers; and the fourth cosmic destruction.
Christ is Lord, the kingdom is at hand, the Great Day of the Lord, the day of judgment, is upon us. Even nature is consumed before our eyes, so repent and believe.
i] Context: See 6:1-8. The judgment of the seven trumpets presents in similar fashion to the judgments of the seven seals, although it is interesting to note how the seven trumpets find more in common with the seven bowls. We have three groupings of judgments, an interlude and then a final judgment:
i] Sounding the first four trumpets, 8:6-13;
ii] Sounding the fifth trumpet, 9:1-12;
iii] Sounding the sixth trumpet, 9:13-21;
a) The mighty angel and the little scroll, 10:1-11;
b) The two witnesses, 11:1-14;
v] Sounding the seventh trumpet, 11:15-19.
Each trumpet reveals an aspect of the final day of judgment upon those who are not marked with the divine seal (those without the inscription of the Lamb and God on their forehead??). The interlude gives an insight into the state of the church caught up in the day of judgment as believers wait for the invitation to ascend into heaven, 11:12. For the church, gospel mission continues and some repent. Then follows the final trumpet which serves to draw us back into God's throne room at a minute before midnight before propelling us into the judgment of the beasts, 12:1-14:20.
For the imagery used in this series of judgments, John draws on the plagues that beset Egypt at the beginning of the Exodus, Exodus 7-10. Michaels notes that the imagery also reflects the Exodus as a whole, eg., with the third trumpet the waters don't turn to blood, but become bitter, so reversing the miracle at Marah, Ex.15:23.
As already noted, although the messianic judgments covering 6:1-16:21 address the same event, namely the Great Day of the Lord, the day of judgment, there is none-the-less an intensification of the judgment in each series of judgments. In the seals, a quarter of the world was affected, in the trumpets it is a third of the world, and in the bowls it is the whole world. Whereas the judgment of the seals tends to fall on humanity, the judgment of the trumpets is focused on nature: earth, sea, fresh water and the firmament. Of course, human sin is the cause.
The Three Woes: In between the first four trumpets and the fifth trumpet we have the vision of the three Woes, v13. This vision identifies the next three trumpet judgments as judgments of divine woe upon a humanity determined to follow the false gods of this age, a humanity determined to worship the powers darkness rather than light. These judgments are particularly applicable to those church members who have adopted the shibboleths of the age (syncretism) rather than persevere in faith (conquer). The seventh trumpet / third woe, is somewhat unclear. The Woe is possibly the announcement of judgment itself, so Beasley-Murray, Osborne, ..., or the judgments of the beasts, 12:1-13:18 / 14:20, so Sweet, but probably not the judgment of the seven bowls, so Charles.
ii] Background: See 1:1-8
iii] Structure: Sounding the first four trumpets:
The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets, v6:
The first trumpet sounds, v7;
The second trumpet sounds, v8-9;
The third trumpet sounds, v10-11;
The fourth trumpet sounds, v12;
The eagle of woe, v13.
As already noted, there is a great divergence of opinion as to John's purpose in the Revelation. For some commentators, it is all about encouraging believers in the face of tribulation, and yet, the letters to the seven churches do not reveal a church facing extermination. The problem is more likely syncretism, the attraction to, and adaptation of, the gods / shibboleths of this age. The judgment revealed in the Revelation is not so much for the children of Babel, the persecutors of the church, but for the members of the church who have aligned with Babel, Babylon, the secular city - judgment begins with the house of God. Believers must face the fact that the gods of this age, and those who follow them, will face a day of reckoning, a day of judgment, and that day is upon us.
As with divine blessings, so also with cursings, the ultimate purpose is for us to recognize that the kingdom of God is at hand, and so repent and believe. John draws us into this reality, a Day which is both good news and bad, a day which is now (ie., John's eschatology is realized). For we earth-dwellers, caught in this moment of grace between Christ's ascension and return, the heavenly preparations for judgment are not yet, (the eschatology is inaugurated). Every day we sense God's blessings, but we also experience the signs of judgment, a world out of control imploding on itself. Law-and-order, failed states, environmental degradation and the like, all point to the inevitable. Yet, in the face of all this evidence, few repent and believe. And as to when God closes up the Monopoly Board, from our perspective, "no one knows", Matt.24:36, but from the heavenly perspective, it is already underway.
Text - 8:6
Sounding the first four trumpets, v6-13: i] The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets, v6. The image of a trumpet sounding at the end of the age has strong OT precedence, cf., Joel.2:1, Zeph.1:16 4Ezra 6:23, as well as the NT, Matt.24:31, 1Cor.15:52, 1Thes.4:16. The sounding of the trumpet is both good and bad news; good news for the faithful, those who have held firm to their faith, because it heralds the day of resurrection, but bad news for the unfaithful because it heralds the day of judgment.
kai "then" - and. Transitional. Used instead of de to indicate a step in the narrative.
oiJ econteV (ecw) pres. part. "who had [seven trumpets]" - [the seven angels] having [the seven trumpets]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "angels", as NIV; "then the seven angels who were holding the seven trumpets."
autouV pro. "-" - [prepared] them. Although not reflexive, the personal pronoun takes that sense here; "prepared themselves to sound them (the trumpets)."
iJna + subj. "to [sound them]" - that [they may trumpet them]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose.
ii] The first trumpet sounds, v7. The first judgment builds on the seventh Egyptian plague. Hail and fire, as symbols of judgment, have OT precedence, cf., Ex.9:13-26, Ps.105:32. The presence of blood is somewhat of a mystery; "Rome wants blood: God will rain it down until its people drown in it", Blount ..... possibly!!! Smalley suggest the "blood" serves to link the vision with the first plague upon Egypt where the river Nile turns to blood. The destruction wrought on the land is only a third, although this is an expansion on the quarter for the judgment of the seals. Still, the judgment is severe, touching as it does on central aspects of commerce - forests and pastures.
kai "-" - and. As in v6. "And the following things happened at once", TH.
memigmena (mignumi) perf. mid./pas. part. "mixed" - [the first trumpeted and there came hail and fire] having been mingled, mixed. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "hail and fire"; "which was mingled with blood." Is the fire lightning? "And it was hurled on the earth", Barclay.
en + dat. "with [blood]" - The preposition here expresses accompaniment / association.
thV ghV (h hV) gen. "[a third] of the earth" - [and it was thrown to the earth and the third] of the earth [was burned up]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
dendrwn (on) gen. "[a third] of the trees [were burned up]" - [and the third] of the trees [was burnt up and all the green grass was burnt up]." The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
iii] The second trumpet sounds, v8-9. As with the blowing of the first trumpet, a series of divine passives dominate; they "credit the action to God", Blount. The instruments of blood, fire and "something like" a flying mountain, destroys a third of the oceans, sea creatures and ships. Note that in the judgment of the bowls, all the sea turns to blood and all the sea creatures are destroyed, 16:3. It does seem likely that John is alluding to the divine plague that fell on Egypt when Moses acted to turn the great river of Egypt into blood, Ex.7:17-21. As for the image of flying mountains, if the Revelation was written after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79 then we may well have an allusion to this catastrophic event. Pliny writes that the debris from the explosion filled the bay making it impossible to land boats.
kai "-" - and [the second angel trumpeted]. As in v6.
wJV "something like [a huge mountain]" - [and] something like [a great mountain .... was thrown into the sea]. Here as a comparative, with the subject of the verb "was thrown" assumed, as NIV. "Something like an immense mountain", Phillips.
kaiomenon (kaiw) pres. mid./pas. part. "all ablaze" - burning [in, with fire]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "mountain"; "a mountain which was burning." The dative puri, "in, with fire", is adverbial, either expressing accompaniment / association, or manner; "what looked like a great mountain blazing with fire", Barclay.
thV qalasshV (a) gen. "[a third] of the sea [turned into blood]" - [and the third] of the sea [became blood]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. As already noted, it can be argued that John is not speaking of the final judgment when he states that only a third of the sea becomes blood, but it seems more likely that the final judgment is in mind, a day which John dissects into many parts.
twn ktismatwn (ktisma atoV) gen. "[a third] of the [living] creatures" - [and the third] of the creatures. As with pwn ploiwn, "of the ships", the genitive is adjectival, partitive.
twn gen. art. "[in the sea]" - the [in the sea]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the sea" into an attributive adjective; "which are in the sea." The preposition en is local, expressing space.
ta econta (ecw) pres. part. "living" - having [life / soul and the third of the ships were destroyed]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, further limiting "creatures"; "the creatures .......... which are having life = living"
iv] The third trumpet sounds, v10-11. Fresh water now gets the same treatment as salt water, this time by a flaming star. Again, in the parallel judgment of the bowls, all the rivers and springs are completely destroyed, whereas here only a third of the rivers are destroyed. The agent of destruction is a star / planet named after the bitter herb wormwood, and so a third of fresh water becomes bitter and undrinkable, cf., Jer.9:15, 23:15. The image of bitterness in the OT is linked to divine wrath and judgment, often associated with idolatry, Prov.5:3-4, Lam.3:15, 19, Amos 5:7, 6:12, Hos.10:4. As already noted, although the destruction covers only a third of the waters, it most likely represents the unfolding events of the day of judgment rather than some pre-judgment event.
kai "-" - and. As in v 6.
kaiomenoV (kaiw) pres. mid./pas. part. "blazing" - [the third angel trumpeted, and fell out of heaven a great star] blazing. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "star".
wJV "like [a torch]" - as [a torch]. Here serving as a comparative.
ek + gen. "[fell] from [the sky]" - Here expressing source / origin; "and a blazing comet fell from the sky."
epi + acc. "on" - [and it fell] on. John's favorite spacial preposition; "upon, on."
twn potamwn (oV) gen. "[a third] of the rivers" - [the third] of the rivers. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
twn uJdatwn (wr atoV) gen. "[the springs] of water" - [and on the fountains] of the waters. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, "water springs", Berkeley, or more simply, "a third of the rivers and a third of the springs", Peterson.
tou asteroV (hr roV) gen. "[the name] of the star" - [and the name] of the star. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. Often treated as a parenthesis; "(The name of the star is bitterness)", TEV.
oJ AyinqoV (oV) "[is] Wormwood" - [is called] the wormwood. Properly feminine, not masculine. Nominative of name. Apsinth, extracted from the wormwood plant, produces a dark green bitter oil which was used to kill intestinal worms.
twn uJdatwn (oV) gen. "[a third] of the waters]" - [and a third] of the waters. The genitive is adjectival, partitive.
eiV + acc. "[turned bitter]" - [became] into [wormwood]. Note variant wJV, "like wormwood." Certainly that is the sense, but probably eiV ayinqon, "into wormwood", is used with the verb egeneto, "became", as its predicate, "became bitter", Plummer, DDG.
twn anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "[many] people" - [many] of the men [died]. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. "Many people died because the water had become so bitter", Phillips.
ek + gen. "from [the waters]" - This preposition here leans toward a causal sense; "because of the waters."
oJti "that [had become bitter]" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why people died from / because of the waters, "because it had been made bitter", ESV.
v] The fourth trumpet sounds, v12. Cosmic judgment follows affecting the light produced by the sun, moon and stars. Note the main verb eplhgh, "to strike", is passive; a divine passive? The word expresses an application of force to stop the elements shining, either by dying as a source of light, or blocked out by something. In Wisdom literature darkness is viewed as a sign of divine judgment, usually because of idolatry, cf., Wis.15:1-16:29. Note also that the verb is singular when referring to three elements, the third being plural. Given that the elements are neuter, we might expect a singular verb.
tou hJliou (oV) gen. "[a third] of the sun" - [and the fourth angel trumpeted, and a third] of the sun [was struck, and a third of the moon and a third of the stars]. The genitive (as with "of the moon", "of the stars", autwn, "of them", authV, "of it") is adjectival, partitive.
iJna + subj. "so that [a third of them turned dark]" - that [the third of them might be darkened, and the third part of the day may not appear and the night likewise]. Introducing either a final clause expressing purpose, or a consecutive clause expressing result; result seems more likely, "with the result that .....", "a third part of them turned dark and a third part of the light failed to appear by day or by night", REV.
vi] The eagle of woe, v13. We now come to a momentary interlude between the first four and the fifth trumpet. An eagle cries out "Woe! Woe! Woe!" to those who dwell on the earth; the woe of judgment. An eagle, a bird of power and speed, is used as a sign of swift approaching judgment in the OT, Jer.48:40, Hab.1:8. We are reminded of Jesus proclaiming "Woe" on the people of Israel for failing to respond to the signs of the gospel revealed in his miracles, Matt.11:20-21. The same Woe hangs over the church, as it does over the whole of humanity, for failing to repent in face of coming judgment. See "Context" above.
kai eidon "As I watched" - and i saw. This phrase often introduces a new vision. Certainly we have a step in the narrative, or even better, a momentary interlude before the sounding of the next trumpet.
eJnoV "an [eagle]" - [and i heard] one [eagle]. The noun aetou, "eagle, vulture", takes a genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear", with the genitive adjective "one" limiting it. "One" is usually translated as an indefinite article, as NIV, although more likely serving as an indefinite pronoun, "a certain eagle"; see Mathewson.
petomenou (petomai) gen. pres. mid. part. "that was flying" - flying [in midheaven]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "eagle".
legontoV (legw) gen. pres. part. "call out" - saying. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "eagle"; "who cried in a loud voice", Berkeley. Note though that John often introduces speech with the participle saying, cf., legwn 1:17.
fwnh/ (h) dat. "in a [loud] voice" - A dative is probably adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the crying out, ie., a loud crying.
touV katoikountaV (katoikew) pres. part. "to the inhabitants [of the earth]" - [woe, woe, woe,] the dwellers [upon the earth]. The participle serves as a substantive, accusative of person after ouai, "woe" (often followed by a dative; "Woe to .....").
ek + gen. "because of " - from. Here probably expressing cause / reason, as NIV, possible even temporal, "after", so Zerwick.
thV salpiggoV (x goV) gen. "the trumpet [blasts]" - [the remaining of the sounds] of the trumpet [of the three angels]. The NIV has taken the genitive as adjectival, attributive, limiting "the sounds"; "the remaining of the sounds of the trumpet" = "the rest of the blasts of the trumpet" = "the rest of the trumpet blasts."
twn mellontwn (mellw) gen. pres. part. "about to be [sounded]" - being about [to trumpet]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "trumpet". The infinitive salpizein, "to trumpet", is complementary, "about to blow", ESV.
twn ... aggelwn (oV) gen. "by the other three angels" - of the [three] angels. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.