The Seventh Seal and the First Four Trumpets
1And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.
The final seal is opened and there is a pause. Given the nature of the other six seals this pause represents the opportunity for Christians to flee Jerusalem (see Matthew 24:15-20).
2And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.
These are the seven stars/messengers of Rev. 1:20. The seven trumpets they are given are the heralding of the arrival of the King. These trumpets are the proclamations of the coming of the Lord these messengers brought to the churches. The message describes what it will look like when He comes, thus when the events actually transpire, it will be like a clarion call of “okay, here He is!” for the churches.
3And 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.
This symbolizes the increase in prayers as the persecution by the Jews increases right before the end. We see this happen throughout Acts. The persecution is a rising action all through the history of the church up to this point. The prayers then calling for the Lord to come increase proportionally.
4And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.
God hears the prayers...
5And 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 acts. The fire is God’s judgment upon the Jews (earth). The voices, thunderings, lightnings, and earthquake are the activities of God to bring about this judgment to shake up the Jewish system.
6And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.
The seven messengers to the seven churches bring the letter of John’s revelation after the gospel message has been spread (white horse), war, famine, and death have softened up the Jews making them ripe for attack, after all those of the Jews who would convert, do so. This puts us pretty close to, but not during the Jewish wars, the final seven of Daniel’s seventy sevens [Historically 67-73 AD] and gives us a pretty firm idea of when Revelation was written. These seven trumpets echo the pronouncement of the fall of Jericho (Josh. 6:13-21).
7The first angel sounded, and 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.
The war begins. There is hail (Isaiah 28:2; Isaiah 28:17), fire mingled with blood (Isaiah 9:5; Ezekiel 21:32; Joel 2:30; Acts 2:19) cast upon the land of Judah (earth) and a symbolic third of the Jewish families [possibly families of the leaders?] (trees) and the common people (grass) are killed (or enslaved) in the opening salvos.
8And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; 9And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.
“Mountain” is the symbol for kingdom (Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 51:25; Daniel 2:35). This great mountain burning with fire is undoubtedly the Roman Empire coming to bring judgment (fire). This sea in this context is representative here of Judah’s trade capacity. Read my discourse on Isaiah 19. The Jewish capacity for trade was severely diminished during the war, probably due in part to blockades by the Roman navy.
10And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; 11And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
A great star falling from heaven is of course a powerful leader falling from power (Isaiah 14). The effect of the fall of this leader affects the “rivers and fountains”, the means of internal trade within Judah. The star, called Wormwood (which means bitterness) falls and makes the waters bitter and many die from it. Judah, already weakened by famine and inflation, now has a severe shortage of foodstuffs and necessary goods. That which is left makes people sick because of its rotted, putrid, bitter nature. This powerful leader within the Jewish hierarchy is likely some sort of trade minister or someone handling the logistics for the nation of Judah.
12And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.
13And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
Again, an angel is simply a messenger (or possibly the message carried by the messenger). Heaven here can either represent Heaven or the realm of leadership. This messenger is speaking a message to the Jews (the inhabiters of the earth) based on what they see coming (the events portrayed by the three remaining trumpets). The Jewish leadership is frantic. Their land, their people are already feeling the extreme tribulation from the Roman march through Judaea. They cannot put a good face on it anymore, but have to present a realistic picture to their people in order to better prepare them for the worse things to come that they see.
In Truth and Love.