Revelation 8

In Revelation 8, a number of climactic sevens are presented. After an expansive report of happenings of the sixth seal, now the seventh seal is opened, featuring seven angels with seven trumpets (vv. 1 – 2). 

One can imagine original hearers/readers holding their breath, as there is silence in heaven for a full half hour. 

As the prayers of the saints rise before God, the angel casts the censer of prayers upon the earth, shaking it with lightning, thunder, and earthquakes (vv. 3 – 5). The first four angels then blow their trumpets signaling the loss of the earth’s resources by a third — the green earth, rivers, oceans, and even the sun, moon, and stars (vv. 6 – 12).

Verse 13 now prepares the reader for the final three trumpets, signaled by the dread voice of the soaring eagle, calling out woes to the earth’s inhabitants. As empires rise and fall, the prayers of the faithful do indeed make a difference; God is still on the throne. 

Revelation 9

In Revelation 9, the fifth and sixth trumpets are sounded, filling out the woes mentioned in the previous chapter. Whereas the faithful had suffered in previous scenarios, now it is those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads that will suffer affliction (v. 4). 

With the sounding of the sixth trumpet, a third of humankind is killed, and those practicing idolatry and other sinful behaviors will especially be punished (vv. 13 – 21).

So, what do we make of these visions of things coming and memories revisited? For those having suffered the destruction of Jerusalem, especially intense between 67 and 70 AD, heads would have nodded in knowing griefwork. 

And yet, the promise that God would have the last word against the powers that be and those living worldly lives would have given hope amidst the affliction of required emperor worship under Domitian (8196 AD). 

God is on the throne, NOT the emperor. 

Revelation 10

In Revelation 10, the tension builds further, as the seventh trumpet is anticipated, but John is instructed to eat a little scroll. At first, it tastes sweet, as honey, but then it turns sour in his stomach. We might imagine that it sounds like good news at first, but then it turns out to be difficult news to swallow (vv. 8 – 10).

Nonetheless, the seventh trumpet is coming, and God’s mysteries revealed to the prophets will soon be fulfilled (vv. 5 – 7). John is finally given the command (v. 11): You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

Revelation 11

Revelation 11 now leads up to the final woe, but before that, two witnesses testify to the truth in Jerusalem, which is being trampled by the nations for 42 months. The authority of their witness is a torment, and they are eventually killed. 

At the sounding of the seventh trumpet, loud voices in heaven break out with what Handel later renders as The Hallelujah Chorus” (v. 15):

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord
 and of his Messiah, 
and he will reign for ever and ever.”

The 24 Elders then break out in further praise and thanksgiving to God (vv. 16 – 18), and the Ark of the Covenant is revealed in the Heavenly Temple, accompanied by lightning, thunder, earthquakes, and hail (v. 19). 

No matter how bad things get in this world, God’s victory will have the last word in the end. Note Donald Jackson’s painting in Vol. 7 of The Saint John’s Bible, The Cosmic Battle.”

Donald Jackson, The Cosmic Battle,” Vol. 7 of The Saint John’s Bible.

Revelation 12

In Revelation 12, the imagery changes. Instead of sevenfold bowls, angels, and trumpets, now we have graphic depictions of conflict breaking out in heaven, a woman giving birth to a son, the ancient serpent/dragon, and the warfare that ensues. In terms of trauma theory, memories of travail and deliverance never die; they revisit survivors in powerful, sometimes surprising, ways. If the woman and son represent Mary and Jesus, perhaps the memory of her escaping the Romans destroying Jerusalem (1,260 days — 67 – 70 AD, v. 6) is recalled as a blessing.

But now, new warfare has broken out between Michael and his angels and the ancient serpent (Satan, the Devil), who is the deceiver of the whole world and the accuser of the brethren (vv. 7 – 10). Abruptly, the heavenly voice calls out, with great rejoicing (v. 11):

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
 and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.”

The dragon, nonetheless makes war against the woman’s children (v. 17). A parallel negative female image is presented in Revelation 17, captured here in the striking painting by Donald Jackson, Woman and the Dragon” (The Saint John’s Bible, Vol. 7).

Donald Jackson, Woman and the Dragon,” The Saint John’s Bible, Vol. 7.

Revelation 13

Romans 13 and Revelation 13 are two of the most influential texts in Western history, as it is the former that (wrongly) poses a basis for the divine right of kings (Ro 13:1 – 7), and the latter provides the key to figuring out which leader or government might be the Beast of the Apocalypse, whose number is 666 (Rev 13:18). 

Holding these two chapters in tension is helpful in discerning biblical truth for the day, and also for deciding what is not. Within its larger context (Ro. 12:9 – 13:14), Paul’s appeal is to love one’s enemies and to forgive — as Christ forgave us — and thus to be a good witness in lawful accord. And, Revelation 13 calls for resistance to the idolatrous Roman Empire, as faithful believers in Christ. It is prophetic, not futuristic.

Historically, the first beast coming up out of the sea likely refers to Nero (5468 AD), who persecuted Christians in Rome the last four years of his reign. The Jewish gematria” code for 666 comes out Neron Caesar,” and some manuscripts list 616 as the code number, which reflects deleting the n” to make it Nero Caesar.”

The second beast, invading by land, likely refers to Domitian (8196 AD), who revives the nightmares of Nero, but even worse across the Empire. Domitian required people to confess publicly Caesar is Lord” and to offer sacrifice (at least incense), putting Jesus-followers on the spot. If they did not worship Caesar, they were shut out of commerce privilege, and some suffered imprisonment or punishment — in some cases, capital. These issues are laid out clearly a few years later, when Governor Pliny asks Emperor Trajan (98117 AD) whether he should torture or kill two young Christian women who refuse to worship Caesar and to deny Christ. 

Thus, Revelation calls for allegiance to Christ above all else, whichever imperial idolatry people face in every generation. 

Revelation 14

Revelation 14 opens with the 144,000 who have the Father’s name written on their foreheads and have not defiled themselves in worldly ways (vv. 1 – 5). This is followed by the messages of three angels (vv. 6 – 11), saying:

  • Worship God alone.
  • Fallen is Babylon.
  • Worshipers of the Beast will receive torment.

The call for endurance of the saints is then followed by a blessing for those who have died and now are at rest (vv. 12 – 13). This text is set to music classically in the Brahms Requiem

Additional texts in this chapter are also set to poetry and music, including the Grim Reaper (vv. 14 – 16) and the trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored” echoed in The Battle Hymn of the Republic” (vv. 17 – 20). 

The function of apocalyptic is to embolden the faithful to persevere during hard times and to trust in God, over and against the powers that be — relevant then and in every age. 

Revelation 15

Revelation 15 opens with an announcement of a final set of seven angels and plagues. These set the stage for God’s final victory, which is celebrated in advance by those who had conquered the Beast (vv. 3 – 5):

Great and amazing are your deeds,
 Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
 King of the nations! 
Lord, who will not fear
 and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
 All nations will come
 and worship before you,
for your judgements have been revealed.”

Only after the seven plagues have ended will the heavenly temple be accessible (v. 8). Again, apocalyptic literature poses visions of the spiritual world, giving hope for those enduring ordeals in the physical world. 

And, the main theme of Revelation is: God wins!

Reflections © Paul Anderson, 2024. Used by permission of the author.

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Images by Donald Jackson © 2002. The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Learn more at

Text First Published December 2023 · Last Featured on January 2024