Warning and Judgment: The Trumpets of Revelation 8

Let me begin by saying that I am not a Biblical scholar and, like most people reading this week’s Sabbath School lesson, I am studying and praying through it to gain a better understanding of the concepts covered. Revelation 8 has been the most challenging for me when it comes to symbolism and interpretation and I will rely on your comments and insights when discussing this topic. Angel Manual Rodriguez notes that one of the most difficult passages to interpret is “Revelation 8–11, the seven trumpets.” Rodriguez also states that there are differing views of what time periods should apply and that interpreting these passages can often become confusing. The imagery and language in this particular passage of Revelation contains multiple Biblical and prophetic references, including the sanctuary, and historic periods. As a result, we will move slowly through the chapter and try to create an overview of the messages and symbols within.

Prayers of the Saints

First, Revelation 8:2 introduces us to seven angels who “stand before God and seven trumpets are given to them.” (NIV). Following this introduction, verses 3 and 4 brings us to “another angel,” one “who had a golden censer…He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne.” (NIV). According to Rodriguez, “the references to the altar of incense, the censer, the burning of incense, and the angel indicate that a ritual activity is taking place in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary.” (2010). This description establishes our setting. In the book Early Writings, E. G. White notes that when Jesus died

the services of the earthly sanctuary were forever finished, and that God would no more meet with the priests in their earthly temple, to accept their sacrifices... As the priest entered the most holy once a year to cleanse the earthly sanctuary, so Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and thus to cleanse the sanctuary.

According to Haskell, the incense was offered to God along with the prayers of the saints. Those prayers were accepted by God, as noted by the incense being taken up. (Haskell, 1914). Revelation 6:10 states that the contents of those prayers are their cries of “how long” or their pleas for justice, to “avenge our blood.” (NIV). Revelation 8 singles out the suffering of God’s people and His response to that suffering.

The chapter then goes on to detail each angel and what happens when they sound their trumpets. For example, Revelation 8:7 says, “The first angel sounded his trumpet and there came hail mixed with blood and it was hurled down to earth. A third of the earth was burned up and a third of the trees were burned up and all the green grass was burned up.” (NIV). These verses create a very vivid picture. Notice that although the items thrown down to earth burn, not everything burns completely, only a third of the trees. The implication within the text is that this is not a complete solution or judgment.

In each instance, the prayers of the saints and their appeals to God, are answered. These answers come at different points in time. “The trumpets are not God’s final eschatological judgments upon impertinent sinners but judgments taking place within the flow of history.” (Rodriguez, 2012). The judgments delivered are completed at different points in history. The message of the trumpets show that God is consistent and keeps his promises. It provides reassurance that He is faithful.

Meaning of the Trumpets

The descriptions of the seven angels and seven trumpets engage the reader’s visual sense but also the sense of hearing. There is a very specific sound refenced by trumpets and they are used to call attention to something. But what does it all mean? The Bible references trumpets and blowing trumpets several times, including in the following cases:

  • Trumpets used to summon the people of Israel for meetings, Number 10:7 (NIV);
  • Trumpets used in battle, Joshua 6:4 (NIV);
  • Trumpets signaling celebration, Psalm 81:3,4 (NIV); and
  • Trumpets used to note an end or for judgment, Isaiah 27:13 (NIV)

In Ezekiel, Joel, and Numbers the trumpet is used as a way to announce, warn, or to sound an alarm. This same context is used in Revelation 8 when the seven trumpets are blown. The blast of the trumpet before each angel’s delivery acts in many ways as a signal, an alarm. Jon Paulien notes that trumpets are often referred to in three ways in the Old Testament—to signal war, in worship and prayer, and/or a combination of these two things. (Paulien, 2018). When viewed in this light the alarm sounded by the trumpets in Revelation 8 also signals God’s response to the prayers of the saints; as noted above, it is a response to prayers for intervention. (Paulien, 2018).

Eating the Scroll

The message in Revelation 8 is a difficult one to apply but again rests on the assurance that God keeps his promises. (Paulien, 2012). In each time period those who have suffered have prayed for intervention or for justice and God has answered those prayers. Although a majority of this week’s study focuses on Revelation 8, the authors also refer to Revelation 10:8–11. In this passage, John is instructed to eat the scroll he is writing on and told that it will taste sweet but will cause his stomach to become sour. This signals that the messages delivered in Revelation 8 are bittersweet. While these seven angels carry out justice and vindicate the saints that are persecuted, the acts themselves are bitter. Although a message of encouragement can be found in Revelation 8, it resounds as an alarm as the judgments carried out by each angel becomes increasingly severe and more urgent.


Holy Bible, NIV (Revelation 8; Revelation 10:13; Psalm 81: 3,4; Isaiah 27:13; Joshua 6:4; Numbers 10:7; Joel 2:1; Ezekiel 10:2; Leviticus 16)

Haskell, S. (1914). The Cross and its Shadow. [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://adventpioneerbooks.com/Text/pioneer/SNHASKEL/CROSS.pdf

Paulien, J. (2018, February 21). Original Teacher’s Note for Revelation 8-11 (week 7) [Blog Post] Retrieved from http://revelation-armageddon.com/tag/the-seven-trumpets-of-revelation/

Rodriguez, A. (2010, February). Revelation 8:2-6. Retrieved from https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/bible-nt-texts/revelatio...

Rodriguez, A. (2012, January). Issues in the Interpretation of the Seven Trumpets of Revelation. Ministry Magazine.Retrieved from https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2012/01/the-seven-trumpets-of-revelation

White, E.G. (1882). Early Writings of E.G. White. Retrieved from http://www.ellenwhite.info/books/ellen-g-white-book-early-writings-ew-60.htm

Karon Powell is Assistant Professor and Director of the Global Community Development Department at Southern Adventist University.

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9412
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Thank you Karon Powell for a simple overview of the Seven Trumpets. I think sometimes we get caught up in the detil and miss the bigger picture.

if the book of Revrlation had not been included in the canon, how would one’s confidence in the Gospel change? Paul up it clearly when he wrote we fight not against—-…

If I had to choose the message of the Bible I would Choose Genesis, Psalms, Matthew, The Gospel Of John, Philippians, Romans, And Hebrews.

It wouldnt.
The Gospel Is this.
Rom 10:9
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Revelation not required according to Paul.

I have a hard time with the image of God commissioning angels to create such havoc, bloodshed, mayhem, disease and human sorrow upon the earth. First, I don’t think anyone earth knew that God was the cause of their disasters, if so they may have resented him. Second, there is no loving kindness or tender mercies in any of these judgments. Third, what good did they do? Does war and bloodshed of innocents in harm’s way–make the world a better place? Is this in keeping with the spirit of the gospel of grace and love???

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I think it us useful in the flow of history when things seem/and are going wrong from our perspective we can have the hope and faith God is in control and it assist in our perseverance of faith and hope.

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PS. It isnt a daily news clip to be filled with todays news.

Take out the EGW quote and the reference this is the HP, rather than the MHP where the throne/“ark” is (actually heaven is “holies”) and Jesus our KING and high priest after the order of Melchizedek is then …a good article. :slight_smile:

isn’t it unfortunate that we have rely on theological scholars who in turn rely on historians to have some understanding of God’s letters to His children? Is God in control by confirming Satan’s accusations that He will destroy His children who reject His love?

Hmmm. never read that concerning satan in scripture. The judgments come from the throne…not satan.
Refer to Ps.97: 2 - forward

Consistent with what some have said above, there is a completely different (and I would propose, biblically-valid) interpretation of the nature and role of the trumpets than is typically being taught. That the trumpets are God’s “judgments” and/or that they are God’s answer/response to Rev 6:10 has to be ‘read into’ an interpretation of this passage. They are not in fact unequivocally embedded within it as has been portrayed.

A convergence of points would question this typical view and raise an alternative interpretation/conceptualization that is validly supported across scripture in the original languages and is not just mere speculation:

  • The English translation of Rev 6:10 with respect to ‘sitting in judgment and avenging’ is not the definitive translation of the Greek. The Greek also supports an interpretation along the lines of a call for the restoration of righteousness meaning a restoration to the way things are supposed to be and will one day again be under abundant life (zoe). This does not require punishment to achieve this as people would assume. While retributive justice is punishment-based, true restorative justice does not need to be as it is an entirely different paradigm. I would propose that Rev 6:10 is a call for restorative ‘justice’, not retributive justice. The Greek words do support both views therefore the reader has to choose which view is the more consistent with the nature and character of God - the essence of which was displayed in Lk 23:34.

  • God’s answer/response to Rev 6:10 is Rev 6:11. Part of the answer is that they would have to wait until more people were killed. This is consistent with the view that there is an external and natural phenomenon going on the even God has to wait for - rather than a process that God is initiating and controlling. This is part of what must happen for the Great Controversy to play out to its conclusion. And there are more players/factors in the Great Controversy than God. It is these factors that are doing the harming - not God.

  • Trumpets are a call to attention/alert. A tornado siren/alert warns people that a tornado is imminent. Is the person who initiates the siren/alert causing the tornado? Or, in their wisdom and knowledge, are they able to read external events and predict what is about to happen? Jn 10:10 and Rev 9:11 attribute destruction exclusively to an agency that is external to God and His Kingdom.

Thus, I would propose that the 7 trumpets are nothing more than a tornado siren/alert. They call our attention to what is about to happen. And what happens under trumpets 1 thru 6 inclusive are the activity of the Kingdom of Darkness - not the Kingdom of God.

What is my evidence? Firstly, what happens under each of the trumpets is 100% consistent with the attributes attributed exclusively to the Kingdom of Darkness by Jesus in Jn 10:10: steal, kill and destroy. And they are 100% inconsistent with what Jesus said (and portrayed throughout His life on earth) that the Kingdom of God was exclusively about in the same verse: abundant life (zoe = the quality of life God lives established on the same basis that God lives that life - self-renouncing love/Agape). See also Jn 3:16,17 and 1 Tim 4:10 where God is also portrayed exclusively as Saviour, a term that is inconsistent with Destroyer.

Secondly, the strong repetition of the phrase “a third” is too dominant to not be noticed and its parallel to Rev 12:4 is striking in terms of something straddling heaven and earth that brings things from heaven to earth that impact “one third” of the total.

Bottom line: if the typical English translations of the Bible have in fact selected the accurate interpretation of the original languages (keeping in mind that translation is an interpretative process and is therefore vulnerable to the perceptual filters and world-views of the interpreters), then we have a situation where the Kingdom of Darkness is ruled by a Destroyer and the Kingdom of God is also ‘ruled’ by a Destroyer. The only difference would be that one destroys out of hatred and the other destroys out of ‘love’.

And further, if God does operate on the basis of retributive justice (as He is most frequently portrayed by Christian’s and even theologians) as doing, then Isa 55:9 is untrue because even humans operate on a retributive justice paradigm.

These are just some of the inconsistencies and problems with the traditional and dominant view of God’s judgment and justice that exist - whether they are acknowledged or not.


We always think we know and solved the puzzle which is the Book of Revelation. Here is another thing to think about: If the eating of the little book in Revelation 10 was fulfilled during the Millerites’ great disappointment and became the stepping stone for the birth of SDA movement, how come we think of ourselves as carrying the 3 angels message to warn people against receiving the mark of the beast? When the fifth angel’s trumpet was blown in Chap. 9, those who do not have God’s seal were tormented. What’s the use of warning the people if they are already tormented because they have the mark of the beast?

The Throne – Even in the Wilderness Tent God “sat enthroned there” on the Ark
in the Most Holy Place. Hebrews says Christ went “beyond the veil” and sat down
next to the Father in the MHP. If the Curtain is no longer there, then the place for
Incense IS RIGHT IN the MHP area.
Actually, the Altar of Incense, and the Censor was PART of the MHP furnishings.
They were NOT part of the Holy Place.

Think of this also. The curtains in the OT were to prevent access to man before a Holy God Enshrined above the ark/throne, lest they die. God made the rules of how He was to be approached and not without blood.

Now, there is open Access. No divisions in entry or compartments and open access to the throne where the lamb that was slain for our sins sits since His ascension as King and Priest! Amen.


Yes. Very correct but our church coveted the inheritance of the Levites that they retained the vital part of the sacrificial system. The tithes. We all knew that those ordered to receive the tithes were the ones who were tasked to bear the sins of the people and approach God’s presence. Now who among the pastors, conference officials up to GC are worthy to bear our sins that we should give our tithes to them?
Ever wondered why we have this ritual during the divine service every sabbath: a reading of a bible verse or some writings of EGW on stewardship, after which collecting the tithes, and while the tithes are being collected, the congregation are singing a song with lyrics similar to Mal. 3:10. Was the reading to strike on everyone’s conscience? If the reading is not enough, the singing of the promised blessing will surely coax out the money from the pockets. Are those not psychological approaches? Why do they want us to write our names on the tithe envelopes? Are we not supposed to do it in secret?Maybe they want us to write our names so that we will feel somebody will know our"unfaithfulness" if we stopped returning the tithes. Although Christ lectured the Pharisees to do good things without neglecting tithing, those were what they were supposed to have done before His ultimate sacrifice. How can we give back our money to God then? Well, we have our hint in Mat 25:34-40. We are not required to return the tithes now that Jesus is our sacrifice and High Priest in one.
We can only give cheerfully whatever amount to the church as much as as we like through love offering or love gifts but not tithes. Giving tithes is not doing willingly but of necessity because the law requires it.
If the thought of not returning the tithes makes you feel guilty, that is because you are still under the law. You are still wearing your own robe of righteousness. That is how this church defile us.
Money is what makes the world go round, some say. Is it also true in the Adventist world? Take out the tithes and we will see who will still want to be ordained as pastors. Maybe WO will no longer be an issue. Let us see who will want to be a conference or union president.

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