THE SEVENTH SEAL IS OPENED
Rev 8:1-6 And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets. And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. And the seven angels, which had the seven trumpets, prepared themselves to sound.
The closing verses of the sixth chapter tell of the sixth seal being opened, which symbolically revealed the future overthrowing of the ruling Roman monarchs by Constantine. After removing and slaying those emperors, as well as those aspiring to ascend to the throne, Constantine declared himself to be the emperor of the Roman Empire. At his mother's urging he declared the church of Christ to be the official religion of that vast nation, and disallowing the practice of all others. Continuing their symbolic disclosure of the sixth seal, we learn about events that would occur, which are described in chapter seven. There we found four angels holding back the four destructive winds, which allowed the Jewish and Gentile Christians, without persecution and tribulation, to continue preaching and teaching salvation though the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to the entire known world. A great work was foretold, and was to be accomplished by the teaching members of Christ's church during this period of history. With this great work being accomplished, the seventh seal, opened by Jesus, the Lamb of God, seems to reveal the symbolic loosing of the four destructive winds, which unleash hurtful tribulations once again on the church of Christ.
The lesson text tells us that when Jesus had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. Although debated by bible scholars, the meaning here seems to foretell of a noticeable pause from the evangelistic work of the church, much like the proverbial calm before the storm, which seemingly gave emphasis to the dramatic events that were to follow. The seven ministering angels of God were given seven trumpets. As we learn from the verses that follow, each angel was destined to sound their trumpet and usher in another symbolic prediction of future events disclosed by the seventh seal.
However before the sounding of their trumpets, John saw, and recorded for us, another angel coming into view at the altar, and there offered much incense, which represented the prayers of the saints ascending up to God. From the altar of incense the angel took fiery embers, with a censer, and cast them on the earth, which resulted in much confusion, tumultuous disturbances, and great tribulations as indicated symbolically by voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. Such devastating events would bring the evangelistic efforts of the body of Christ on earth to a standstill. This being foretold,the seven angels, which had the seven trumpets, prepared themselves to sound. Although the blasting sound of the trumpet sometimes represents the proclamation of peace, it most often sounds the alarm for armies to march forward into battle. This seems to be the implication in these things the apostle John witnessed, and recorded, in this Revelation letter for our learning.
Continuing on with verse 7, which follows the lesson text, John wrote that with the sounding of the trumpet by the first angel, there followed 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. This is definitely a prophecy of raging, bloody wars brought about by evil armies, that are destined to result in an era of desolation and destruction against a great part (a third) of the Roman Empire. It would also bring great harm to the cause of Christ and His church. This is the exact description of the invasion of Italy by the Gothic armies, under King Alaric that began in 409 A.D. After a long siege, Roman traitors opened the gates to the city, allowing the barbaric Goths to enter. For three days they sacked the city, the blood of slain Roman defenders filled the streets, rich treasures were taken as spoil, and buildings, orchards, and farm land was destroyed by fiery conflagration. The prophetic symbolism of the first trumpet was fulfilled.