Revelation 8-11

Good morning! As we continue today in Revelation 8-11, a seventh seal is opened in heaven, which unleashes a new round of seven—trumpets this time. There’s a great amount of detail in these chapters to describe the consequences of each trumpet’s sounding. There’s plenty to captivate a literal-minded interpreter, but I suggest not reading it as “fact” which is prophesied to take place. Rather, it expresses a worldview of the earth as under divine control, and its people as destined for destruction when they do not please God.

The seven trumpets represent cosmic disorder, as the planetary home slowly becomes inhabitable. You’ll find in the trumpets’ effects some similarities to the plagues against Pharaoh in Exodus (including the sea becoming blood, hail and fire from heaven, darkness in the land, and locusts). The locusts are described in some detail. Because some of the characters in Revelation are veiled references to Roman people, I wonder if the locusts are stand-ins for Roman centurions. Some of the characteristics could be interpreted in that light, but it’s impossible to know for sure. After the locusts come a virtually uncountable army of mounted riders on fearsome beasts that only somewhat resemble horses. They cause massive casualties, one third of humanity. Those that remain, we’re told, do not turn from idolatry but persist in sinful ways. Remember that Revelation is narrated in a context where total war is expected and practiced by the “great powers”, and what’s described in Revelation would have been a more global version of actual human reality. We’re also expected to read this from the perspective of the ones on whose side God fights, but human decency has advanced to the point where we naturally stand aghast at all the lives lost. There’s the strong sense here of a tribal God who cares about “us” alone. I’m grateful there are cosmic, universal voices of God in the Bible as well—they seem more fitting for our times now.

The first of three “woes” comes to our attention in Chapter 9, where we are to understand the “star that had fallen from heaven to earth” as the “fallen angel” Lucifer. Note that he’s given permission by God to rule for a time, suggesting that even Lucifer has space to follow his “desires”, as do other people not struck down immediately for disobedience. God will only allow Lucifer to go so far, but within those boundaries, God is patient even with him.

The final part of this passage echoes some details from the earlier prophet Ezekiel. When John the Seer is told to eat the scroll, it mimics the moment in Ezekiel’s call story where his words are sweet on his tongue but bitter when they are digested. Ezekiel also measures the temple in a vision, as John does here. The witnesses who stand before the temple and proclaim divine truth for three-and-a-half years show full and untouchable prophetic powers. After they are finally killed by a great beast, they lie dead just 3.5 days before resurrection, when they ascend just as Jesus did at the beginning of Acts. The seventh trumpet which sounds is an occasion for praising God by the heavenly court, much like the seventh day of creation. Happy reading!

Read Revelation 8-11.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Revelation 12-16. Thanks for reading!

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