Revelation of John 8Silence in heaven; usually considered as a pause indicative of the solemnity and importance of the events which were to follow; for commentators have generally supposed that the seventh seal extends over and includes all that follows. For what reason, however, this opinion has been so generally entertained, does not appear, as there is no allusion to the seals beyond this passage, but, on the other hand, an entirely new succession of images occurs. The fact that the account of the opening of the seventh seal is placed it the commencement of a new chapter, is by no moans sufficient to show that it has any connection with what follows, since it is well understood that the divisions of chapters and verses, having been made in comparatively modern times, afford no criterion of the natural divisions of the composition. We may, perhaps, therefore consider the silence in heaven as closing this series of prophetical annunciations. And though there is great uncertainty and much diversity of views in regard to the proper interpretation of them, we may, perhaps, regard them as intended to convey to our minds a general outline of God's intended dealings with the church and the world; the first four seals representing the onset of terrible temporal calamities upon the earth,—war, slaughter, famine, and destruction; the fifth, the faith and patience of the saints, enduring sufferings and sorrows from the ungodly, which would, however, be avenged in due time; the sixth, the great day of retribution bringing destruction upon the enemies of God while his friends are protected and preserved; and the seventh, the period of quiescence and repose, following the final consummation of the divine designs.
Trumpets. The trumpet, being used chiefly to excite and animate bodies of soldiery going into action, is the proper symbol of alarm; and the visions introduced by the sounds of these seven trumpets, plainly denote destructive wars, and great public calamities.
Censer; a vessel used for burning incense. These images are drawn from the forms of worship at the temple in Jerusalem, where the priest burned incense while the people were offering their prayers. (Luke 1:10.)
And the night likewise; that is, the nocturnal light, given by the moon and stars, as well as that of the day, was dimmed.
Woe, woe, woe, &c.; implying that the trumpets of the three remaining angels portended still heavier calamities than those which had been announced. There is great difference of opinion in regard to the interpretation which is to be put upon the visions of the four first trumpets,—some commentators applying each specifically to some particular calamity recorded in history, while others regard them as intended to express only the general idea of disaster and suffering, by different images and varied forms of expression.
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