My son has one of your typical microscopes that has three lenses that rotate, through which you can view a slide with gradual degrees of magnification. At first you can look through the 10x lens and see a small insect or piece of a plant or a seed in its entirety. Then you can switch to the 40x lens and finer features begin to reveal themselves, until with the 100x lens you see the finest of details you did not know even existed. You are always looking at the same thing, but your ability to see the details grows as the lenses change.
Today we come to the second set of seven objects that deliver judgment on the world. First it was seven seals. Now it is seven trumpets, an object used universally in the ancient world to announce battle. In a few more chapters we will come to seven bowls from which God’s wrath is poured. Thinking as good westerners for whom all time is linear, we naturally think these three sets of seven are occurring chronologically one after another. That is twenty-one doses of some bad medicine!
Robert Mounce, a respected commentator on Revelation, argues that it is better to think that these three sets discuss the same events just with more and more detail as we move through the sets, as happens with my son’s microscope. The seven seals largely described the woes of the world as socially-occurring events brought on my human selfishness: war, violence, maybe even famine and disease. Now as the details of the matter come into focus with the trumpets we see that there is a divine hand involved in the judgment. This way of thinks of the seals, trumpets and bowls is worth considering as we read.
I also want to point out why God is unleashing divine judgment. Much like the events of fifth seal in which we were allowed to see the faithful but persecuted Christians crying out for justice, the prayers of the righteous have come up to God in His glorious throne-room like incense and he is aware.
Another angel came and stood before the altar. He was holding a golden censer, and he was given a large quantity of incense so that he could offer it, along with the prayers of all God’s holy people, on the golden altar, in front of the throne. The smoke of incense, with the prayer of the saints, rose up from the hand of the angel in front of God. (8:3-4)
The prayers of people precious to God are powerful. God sees their plight. He hears their prayers. He smells the desperate aroma of their lament. God does not stand by aloof.