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BIBLE TEXT

Revelation 8:6-9:21; 11:15-19

Revelation 8:6-9:21; 11:15-19 – The Seven Trumpets

summary

A series of escalating plagues and destruction ends with an unexpected announcement of the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ.

Analysis

The series of plagues that the angels release by blowing their trumpets recall the plagues with which God struck Egypt (Exodus 7-11), but with several notable differences. First and foremost, throughout the plagues, the amount of destruction is always limited to a third. Unlike the plagues of Egypt that struck all of the Egyptians, each plague targets a third of an aspect of creation. The first set targets the fecundity of the earth: a third of the earth is burned up, a third of trees are burned up and a third of the green grass is burned up (Revelation 8:7). The sea and flowing waters are also not spared (8:9, 8:10). The fourth trumpet targets the cosmos: a third of the sun, the moon, and the stars are darkened (8:12). The last set targets human beings. The fifth trumpet releases grotesque locusts that torture people and the sixth trumpet kills a third of humanity (9:5, 9:15). Just as with the plagues of Egypt that only served to harden Pharaoh’s heart, the plagues of the seven trumpets do not inspire people to repentance (9:20-21).

The sequence of the trumpets is interrupted by a vision of an angel with a scroll in his hand (10:2), followed by a command that John should measure the temple of God (11:1). Then the angel describes the coming of God’s two witnesses. Only after those two witnesses are killed, resurrected, and taken up to heaven is the seventh trumpet blown and this comes with a surprise. Rather than the most terrible plague, the blowing of the seventh trumpet proclaims that the kingdom of the world has transformed into the kingdom of God and his Messiah who reigns forever and ever. The vision of the trumpets reinforces the reality that terror and destruction cannot bring about real faith; rather, faith comes secretly in the midst of these things.