PREPARATION FOR THE
FOUR AND THE
1. was--Greek, "came to pass"; "began to be."
silence in heaven about . . . half an hour--The last
seal having been broken open, the book of God's eternal plan of
redemption is opened for the Lamb to read to the blessed ones in
heaven. The half hour's silence contrasts with the previous
jubilant songs of the great multitude, taken up by the
It is the solemn introduction to the employments and enjoyments of the
eternal Sabbath-rest of the people of God, commencing with the Lamb's
reading the book heretofore sealed up, and which we cannot know till
similarly at the eve of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when the
seven thunders uttered their voices, John is forbidden to write them.
The seventh trumpet
winds up God's vast plan of providence and grace in redemption, just as
the seventh seal brings it to the same consummation. So also the
Not that the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials,
though parallel, are repetitions. They each trace the course of divine
action up to the grand consummation in which they all meet, under a
different aspect. Thunders, lightnings, an earthquake, and
voices close the seven thunders and the seven seals alike
with Re 11:19).
Compare at the seventh vial, the voices, thunders, lightnings, and
The half-hour silence is the brief pause GIVEN
TO JOHN between the preceding vision and
the following one, implying, on the one hand, the solemn introduction
to the eternal sabbatism which is to follow the seventh seal; and, on
the other, the silence which continued during the incense-accompanied
prayers which usher in the first of the seven trumpets
In the Jewish temple, musical instruments and singing resounded during
the whole time of the offering of the sacrifices, which formed the
first part of the service. But at the offering of incense, solemn
silence was kept ("My soul waiteth upon God,"
"is silent," Margin;
Margin), the people praying secretly all the time. The
half-hour stillness implies, too, the earnest adoring
expectation with which the blessed spirits and the angels await the
succeeding unfolding of God's judgments. A short space is
implied; for even an hour is so used
(Re 17:12; 18:10, 19).
2. the seven angels--Compare the apocryphal
"I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels which present the prayers
of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy
"I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God."
seven trumpets--These come in during the time while the martyrs
rest until their fellow servants also, that should be killed as they
were, should be fulfilled; for it is the inhabiters of the
earth on whom the judgments fall, on whom also the martyrs prayed
that they should fall
All the ungodly, and not merely some one portion of them, are
meant, all the opponents and obstacles in the way of the kingdom of
Christ and His saints, as is proved by
Re 11:15, 18,
end, at the close of the seven trumpets. The Revelation becomes more
special only as it advances farther
(Re 13:1-18; 16:10; 17:18).
By the seven trumpets the world kingdoms are overturned to make way for
Christ's universal kingdom. The first four are connected together; and
the last three, which alone have Woe, woe, woe
3. another angel--not Christ, as many think; for He, in
Revelation, is always designated by one of His proper titles; though,
doubtless, He is the only true High Priest, the Angel of the Covenant,
standing before the golden altar of incense, and there, as Mediator,
offering up His people's prayers, rendered acceptable before God
through the incense of His merit. Here the angel acts merely as a
just as the twenty-four elders have vials full of odors, or
incense, which are the prayers of saints
and which they present before the Lamb. How precisely their ministry,
in perfuming the prayers of the saints and offering them on the altar
of incense, is exercised, we know not, but we do know they are not to
be prayed TO. If we send an offering of tribute to
the king, the king's messenger is not allowed to appropriate what is
due to the king alone.
there was given unto him--The angel does not provide the
incense; it is given to him by Christ, whose meritorious
obedience and death are the incense, rendering the saints' prayers well
pleasing to God. It is not the saints who give the angel the incense;
nor are their prayers identified with the incense; nor do they offer
their prayers to him. Christ alone is the Mediator through whom, and
to whom, prayer is to be offered.
offer it with the prayers--rather as Greek, "give
it TO the prayers," so rendering them efficacious
as a sweet-smelling savor to God. Christ's merits alone can thus
incense our prayers, though the angelic ministry be employed to
attach this incense to the prayers. The saints' praying on earth, and
the angel's incensing in heaven, are simultaneous.
all saints--The prayers both of the saints in the heavenly rest,
and of those militant on earth. The martyrs' cry is the foremost, and
brings down the ensuing judgments.
golden altar--antitype to the earthly.
4. the smoke . . . which came with the prayers
. . . ascended up--rather, "the smoke of the incense
FOR (or 'given TO':
'given' being understood from
the prayers of the saints ascended up, out of the angel's hand, in the
presence of Gods" The angel merely burns the incense given him by
Christ the High Priest, so that its smoke blends with the ascending
prayers of the saints. The saints themselves are priests; and the
angels in this priestly ministration are but their fellow
5. cast it into the earth--that is, unto the earth: the
hot coals off the altar cast on the earth, symbolize God's fiery
judgments about to descend on the Church's foes in answer to the
saints' incense-perfumed prayers which have just ascended before God,
and those of the martyrs. How marvellous the power of the saints'
there were--"there took place," or "ensued."
voices, and thunderings, and lightnings--B places the "voices"
after "thunderings." A places it after "lightnings."
6. sound--blow the trumpets.
7. The common feature of the first four trumpets is, the
judgments under them affect natural objects, the accessories of
life, the earth, trees, grass, the sea, rivers, fountains, the light of
the sun, moon, and stars. The last three, the woe-trumpets
affect men's life with pain, death, and hell. The language is evidently
drawn from the plagues of Egypt, five or six out of the ten exactly
corresponding: the hail, the fire
the WATER turned to blood
and perhaps the death
Judicial retribution in kind characterizes the inflictions of the first
four, those elements which had been abused punishing their abusers.
mingled with--A, B, and Vulgate read, Greek,
". . . IN blood." So in the case of the
second and third vials
(Re 16:3, 4).
upon the earth--Greek, "unto the earth." A, B,
Vulgate, and Syriac add, "And the third of the earth was
burnt up." So under the third trumpet, the third of the rivers
is affected: also, under the sixth trumpet, the third part of
men are killed. In
Zec 13:8, 9
this tripartite division appears, but the proportions reversed, two
parts killed, only a third preserved. Here, vice versa, two-thirds
escape, one-third is smitten. The fire was the predominant element.
all green grass--no longer a third, but all is burnt
8. as it were--not literally a mountain: a mountain-like burning
mass. There is a plain allusion to
third part of the sea became blood--In the parallel second vial,
the whole sea (not merely a third) becomes blood.
The overthrow of Jericho, the type of the Antichristian Babylon, after
which Israel, under Joshua (the same name as Jesus),
victoriously took possession of Canaan, the type of Christ's and His
people's kingdom, is perhaps alluded to in the
SEVEN trumpets, which end in the overthrow
of all Christ's foes, and the setting up of His kingdom. On the
seventh day, at the seventh time, when the seven
priests blew the seven ram's horn trumpets, the people shouted,
and the walls fell flat: and then ensued the blood-shedding of
the foe. A mountain-like fiery mass would not naturally change water
into blood; nor would the third part of ships be thereby
9. The symbolical interpreters take the ships here to be
churches. For the Greek here for ships is not the common
one, but that used in the Gospels of the apostolic vessel in which
Christ taught: and the first churches were in the shape of an inverted
ship: and the Greek for destroyed is also used of
10. a lamp--a torch.
11. The symbolizers interpret the star fallen from heaven
as a chief minister (ARIUS, according to
BULLINGER, BENGEL, and
others; or some future false teacher, if, as is more likely, the event
be still future) falling from his high place in the Church, and instead
of shining with heavenly light as a star, becoming a torch lit
with earthly fire and smouldering with smoke. And "wormwood," though
medicinal in some cases, if used as ordinary water would not only be
disagreeable to the taste, but also fatal to life: so "heretical
wormwood changes the sweet Siloas of Scripture into deadly Marahs"
[WORDSWORTH]. Contrast the converse change of
bitter Marah water into sweet,
ALFORD gives as an illustration in a physical
point of view, the conversion of water into firewater or
ardent spirits, which may yet go on to destroy even as many as a
third of the ungodly in the latter days.
12. third part--not a total obscuration as in the sixth
(Re 6:12, 13).
This partial obscuration, therefore, comes between the prayers
of the martyrs under the fifth seal, and the last overwhelming
judgments on the ungodly under the sixth seal, at the eve of Christ's
the night likewise--withdrew a third part of the light which the
bright Eastern moon and stars ordinarily afford.
13. an angel--A, B, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic
read for "angel," which is supported by none of the oldest manuscripts,
"an eagle": the symbol of judgment descending fatally from on high; the
king of birds pouncing on the prey. Compare this fourth trumpet and the
flying eagle with the fourth seal introduced by the fourth
living creature, "like a flying eagle,"
Re 4:7; 6:7, 8:
the aspect of Jesus as presented by the fourth Evangelist. John
is compared in the cherubim (according to the primitive interpretation)
to a flying eagle: Christ's divine %%%%