Seventh Seal, Incense: Victory, 8:1-5
This vision is transitional.
It prepares the way for what is coming in the next vision.
The transitional section is divided into two parts: the silence in heaven (verses 1-2);
and the incense of victory (verses 3-5).
The silence in heaven (8: 1-2)
This has been interpreted from two points of view.
One view looks upon the hath-an-hour space of silence as being symbolical of delay judgment.
Judgment is coming, but it is delayed.
It will come in God's own time.
This idea of delayed judgment was brought out in the restraining of the winds (7:1-3),
and it may be the significance here.
The second view is that the silence in heaven is for dramatic effect.
Already John has seen the instruments of judgment, the demand for judgment, terror of the wicked
at approaching judgment, and provision for God's people during judgment.
What is next?
Even the hosts of heaven are silent, waiting anxiously to see what comes.
They see, as does John, seven angels each with a trumpet in hand.
The seal, as used in the last vision, was to hide things.
Trumpets were used to summon armies, give orders to charge -- they were to announce things.
What will they announce?
This is the question in the minds of the heavenly hosts as they wait with silent expectations.
This is a dramatic touch of prophetic or doctrinal significance within itself.
It is a period of trembling suspense, a silence of reference, expectancy, and prayer in which
the heavenly hosts waited in breathless silence for the pageant to continue.
It is not at all improbable that both ideas are symbolized here -- dramatic expectation has judgment is delayed.
The incense of victory (8:3-5) seems to be more easily explained.
An angel came to the altar with much incense.
The incense was added to the prayers of all the saints.
A censer was filled with the fire, which was a mixture of incense and prayers, and the fire was cast
upon the earth.
The incense of victory was thus scattered upon the living coals of Christian intercession.
As a result ,the whole earth was pictured as being in turmoil in the grip of divine judgment.
From what follows through the rest of the book, it appears that the thing symbolized here is
the fact that the conquering Christ is coming to visit God's retribution on the oppressors of His people.
The thing which brings this about is the combination of the prayers of " all the saints."
The thunder, lightning, and earthquake which follow are premonitory of a great visitation of destruction.
The whole scene in verses 3-5 is a prelude to the seven trumpets which now begin to sound.
The whole picture is signified as the thing which he desired to present to the Christians.
The revelation which John gives was occasioned by a severe oppression of the Christians
through the heathen world power, Rome.
Accordingly, we expect such a revelation as will bring destruction to this hostile power
and will bring triumph to the Christians.
In this light the introductory vision of the angel with the incense (8: 3-5) was interpreted.
The fundamental thought was that God would hear the fervent prayers of His struggling
and afflicted people and cause His judgments to go forth against their enemies.
So, in the "trumpet vision" only such things can be suitable here
as are salutary to the Christians and destructive to the great oppressing world power.
This is what was expected and what is found when the trumpets are interpreted
from the historical
point of view.
The trumpets are warnings of judgment.
They are calls to repentance.
When the trumpet sound, the forces of vengeance will begin to fall upon Rome.
The first four trumpets are represented as bringing woes upon nature or partial destruction of the world.
They represent woes upon nature in its fourfold aspect.
This is the classification of nature as it was known to me and in that day:
land, sea, fresh waters, heavenly bodies.
Part of the symbolism is taken from the plagues of Egypt, and part is from historical events
of the days of John.
This should not be looked upon as a prediction of events which are to take place and destroy
one third of everything.
It is simply a picture of God's warning judgments sent upon wicked men.
This is not final judgment.
Only one third of everything touched is destroyed.
It is partial judgment to warn wicked men.
A " third" was a conventional way of expressing a " large part."
These terrible afflictions were not to be universal.
If they were universal, no flesh could be saved, and they were sent for the very purpose of giving
those who escaped them warnings of so forcible a character that no vestige of excuse
for refusal to repent would be left.
No opportunity of inducing men to repentance was to be neglected.
See again Revelation 9: 20-21.
(1) The sounding of the first trumpet resulted in woes upon the land (8: 7).
There was observed a terrific storm of blazing brimstone mingled with hail and blood
raining down out of the skies.
As a result, a third part of the earth was scorched and swept by forest fires.
(2) The sounding of the second trumpet was followed by a volcanic eruption which cast
a large blazing mountain into the sea.
A third part of the fish died, and a third of the ships on the sea or destroyed.
(3) The sounding of the third trumpet sent a huge star burning like a torch to crash on a third part
of the fresh waters: rivers and springs.
This caused a third part of the water to be turn to bitter poison so that many, drinking the water, died.
(4) When the fourth trumpet sounded, a third party of sun, moon, and stars were turned to darkness,
leaving a third of the day dark as night and a third of the night still gloomier.
All these are pictures of natural calamity as an agent of destruction against Rome,
the enemy of the Christian people.
One of the main things that led to the breaking down of the Roman Empire was a series
of natural calamities causing disaster over the empire: earthquake, volcanic eruption, floods, etc.
Many such things had happened within the memory of John and his readers.
God used such environmental phenomena to present His revelation of destruction to their enemies.
Before the writing of revelation, Mount Vesuvius had erupted (August, A.D. 79) pouring forth
a ferry flood that engulfed several major cities and many other small villages with a horror
long remembered for years by all in that country.
Historians wrote of ashes from the burning mountain fell on ships far out in the sea
and upon the distant shores of Egypt and Syria.
It was related that first was an earthquake followed by the eruption which sent an avalanche of fire
down the mountainside into the sea.
Many who had escaped the streams of lava were suffocated by the sulphurous fumes which reached far away.
Pliny said that the sky was darkened so " It was now day elsewhere,
but there night blacker and thicker than all nights."
Also the island volcano Satorin had erupted, giving the suggestion of a burning mountain.
It was told that fiery blasts destroyed vegetation and sulphurous vapors killed the fish in the sea
and the waters were turned red like blood.
These things were known to the readers of Revelation.
Through these things, God was saying, " I have the means of destroying your enemies."
And by just such things He called those enemies to repent and turn from their evil.
In each of the three series of symbols (seals, trumpets, bowls) they are divided
into four, two, and one, leaving the one to act as a transitional agent.
It is noted that the first four trumpets pronounce woes of all nature.
The next two pronounce woes upon mankind.
John heard an eagle, a bird of prey, crying as it flew through the air that the next trumpets
would bring woes upon man.
The last ones had caused destruction upon nature, but " the worst is yet to come."
In common superstition, the eagle was a bird of ill omen and was a suitable harbinger of the woes to follow.
This announcement came with dramatic effect as the readers, the storm past, looked upon
the charred waste before them.
Next is (5) The sounding of the fifth trumpet brought the scourge of locusts (9: 1-12th)