Revelation 8 has seven trumpets that read like cataclysmic, earth-shaking events:
- Hail and fire and blood cast on the earth
- One third of trees and grass burned up
- One third of sea life died
- One third of ships destroyed
- A “star” (comet”) poisons the water
- The sun and the moon are even affected
And that is only the first three trumpets. It doesn’t get any better after that. But consider that trumpets, in scripture, represent messages, especially messages of warning. The seven trumpets that are sounded starting in Revelation chapter 8 could represent messages of warning or instruction or something very important to the inhabitants of planet Earth. We are not told the contents of those messages but no doubt they are meant to be heard and heeded.
Revelation 8: Seven Trumpets – the Pattern
The pattern is established in the first trumpet:
- “The first angel sounded (the message was given by an angel or perhaps by people represented by an angel; the Greek “aggelos” means messenger),
- and there followed (this shows a sequence – what follows comes after the trumpet message is sounded)
- hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.” (Rev 8:7)
It is important to note that the angels are given trumpets (Rev 8:2). It says nothing about them being given anything like hail, fire, mountains and stars. So, after each message is given, there is a destructive event – something that surely would (and is probably intended to) turn the attention away from what God wants people to hear and understand. We should not automatically attribute those destructive events to God or His angels. The Bible does NOT say the destruction comes from God. The Bible is clear that Satan is the destroyer, not God. It is quite possible that messages are given by holy angels and followed, in each case, by destruction from evil angels.
Just think of a person contemplating making some important decision. Perhaps they have just accepted Christ and are thinking about being baptized. It could be something totally secular – a decision to buy a home or apply for a new job or relocate to another city. If that person was suddenly injured in a car accident that totaled their car and killed their child aren’t they going to be putting off the other decision? Would God send an important message calling for a decision and follow it with something to make that decision hard to even think about?
I can’t say for sure this is the correct understanding but it is a possibility. After describing the trumpets (the seventh being sounded in Rev 11:15) and giving some description of the conditions in the last days (Rev chapters 12-13), this message is given:
“… Fear God and give glory to him for the hour of his judgment is come …” (Rev 14:7)
This, to me, has the idea of “never mind (don’t be afraid of) all the events happening on the earth (the distractions sent by Satan), rather, pay attention to (fear) God and what He is trying to tell you.”
Revelation 8: Seven Trumpets – Two Reactions
This verse sounds somewhat like the events described in the second trumpet:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
So while destruction is all around, God’s people will need to focus on God from Whom their hope will come. The seven trumpets and associated events could be the ultimate call to “fear” God. Everyone will be compelled to fear God in one of two ways. You must choose your picture of God and then you will either:
- be afraid and in fear of Him if you understand this to be the time of His retributive judgment of you.
- be in awe (“fear”) of Him if you understand this to be the time you are to see and pass judgment on His true character.
“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Rom 3:4)
See more about how fear can be understood in the sense of paying attention to God on the fear definition page.
That there is a sense in which people will be called upon to judge God’s character is explained on the judgment definition page.
Revelation 8: Seven Trumpets – Summary
This is an interpretation I have not seen elsewhere – that the trumpets are messages given by angels of God and the destructive events that follow them from another source are meant to serve as distractions. Finally, the message is given to “fear God.” Fear” or “pay attention to Him” and the messages He is sending.
See my more-detailed study of all of Revelation chapter 8 on my other website.