Revelation 8:5-6; 11:15-19

In the previous chapter, we considered the beautiful vision of the Angel-Intercessor standing by the golden altar of incense—a vision conveying so many lessons of consolation and encouragement. The prayers of the hundred and forty-four thousand are received into His censer. There is room there for all; from the petitions of the lisping child or trembling penitent, to those of the full-grown saint in the manhood of his spiritual being. The hands of this true Moses on the Heavenly Mount never grow weary, and the omnipotent "Father, I will" is never uttered in vain.

But while the vision has its message of unspeakable comfort to the believer, it has its utterances also of solemn warning to the sinner and to the world; for we read, that immediately subsequent to the reception of the prayers of the saints, the same Angel-Priest "filled the incense burner with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake." This imagery calls to mind the same vision of Ezekiel to which we formerly had occasion to refer, wherein a the "man clothed in linen" was commanded to "go in between the wheels under the cherub, and fill his hand with coals of fire from between the cherubim, and scatter them over the city." In both cases we have the unmistakable symbols of judgment.

The hot ashes, thrown by the very hand that had just been revealed as 'strong to save,' indicated that to "the fearful and unbelieving" His arm was 'strong to smite.' These glowing coals, if they mingle not with the prayer-offering of the saints, will be cast forth amid despisers and scorners. The fire which does not purify, will, as in the case of Nadab and Abihu, destroy and consume. Where shall the prayerless—those who have never cast one offering into the censer—be found on that day when the Lord shall make inquisition? "Their drink-offerings of blood," says the Savior they have rejected, "will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips."

You who have never known what it is to bend the knee in prayer, who are now living on with no interest in the intercession of Christ—no part in these angel-pleadings, think how you will be able to confront on that day, an injured Savior, when He addresses you in the words He spoke to Philip of old, "Have I been so long time with you and yet have you not known Me?" Have I been with you so long in the preaching of My Word; in ordinances, in sacraments, in afflictions, in the Patmos-chamber of sickness, at deathbed scenes, at the solemn grave—and yet, has My golden censer not received one solitary petition, has no breathing of yours ever helped to fuel the incense-cloud?

Go to the unfrequented prayer-chamber; let the untrodden way to the mercy-seat be no longer choked with the rank weeds of forgetfulness. Let it be henceforth a beaten path. As the Divine Aaron this night lights the lamps—kindles the altar-fires in the upper sanctuary, let there be altar-fires on earth too, kindled for the first time. Let angels carry the glad tidings to Heaven, "Behold, he prays!"

Let us pass now to a few observations on the vision of the Seven Trumpets. These Apocalyptic trumpets evidently do not refer to the silver trumpets used on the great festival which bears the name. These latter summoned to a joyous celebration, corresponding (as has been supposed from its date in the Jewish calendar, as "the beginning of months "), to our own New Year's day. It was to the Jew the anniversary festival of the world's 'genesis.' Trumpets emitting jubilant notes, were appropriately employed in memory of the glad occasion when "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." It formed a prelude and preparation also, for the most sacred of their convocations, the great day of Atonement.

But the trumpet, to the Hebrew of old, had other and different associations. It was used to sound the alarm of war, or to be blown by the sentinels on their cities' watch-towers, when the enemy was in sight or danger was at hand. The present symbolic soundings have a similar reference; they are premonitory of battle and conflict, the precursors of judgment. As the vision of the Seals was designed to minister to the comfort of the Church in the midst of her trials, by the assurance of her ultimate deliverance and safety; so the vision of the Trumpets immediately following, was intended to be prophetic of God's judgments on the Church's enemies, and the certainty with which that punishment is to overtake them.

As a commentator has well observed, the moral of the seven seals is, "Say to the righteous it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings." The moral of the seven trumpets is, "Woe unto the wicked; it shall be evil with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." All commentators, from the earliest to the latest, have with singular unanimity pointed out the evident allusion in these apocalyptic trumpet-blowings to the occasion of the siege of Jericho on the entrance of Israel into the land of Canaan. Numerically, as well as otherwise, the resemblance is remarkable. On seven successive days was the Canaanitish stronghold to be encircled by the armies of Israel. Trumpets were to sound as the desert warriors marched round the walls, preceded by the Ark of the Covenant—the token of the Divine presence. And when we remember the seven vials, which in the Book of Revelation follow the seven trumpets, we are forcibly reminded of the special additional injunction regarding Jericho, that on the seventh day of the seven trumpet-blowings there was to be a sevenfold encircling of the city and that not until the seventh circuit was completed and "a long blast" was given with the rams' horns, accompanied with "a great shout," were the gigantic walls to fall and the conquest obtained of this key to Palestine.

The whole of the Apocalypse may be regarded as a New Testament and gospel history, of the march of the true Israel through the successive stages of the world's long wilderness, to the heavenly Land of Promise. It is a history of gradual aggression against the powers of evil; the triumph of the true Joshua-Jesus over all His adversaries, until He has secured for His people permanent rest within the celestial Canaan. And as the siege and conquest of Jericho presented to the Hebrews alike a vivid memorial and rehearsal of their long struggles and a pledge of final victory; so it forms no unbefitting type and picture of the greater and more glorious struggle, with its ultimate triumph and rest, which belongs to the Church of God.

The whole history of the Church, as embraced in the book of Revelation, is a history of the siege of a moral Jericho—the compassing of the walls of the world's giant unbelief, and their final fall before the might of Him, of whose glorious Person and presence the ancient Ark of Israel was the significant type. Trumpet after trumpet sounds its judgment-blast, each separate peal is directed with symbolic import against some department or element of outer nature—the earth, with its trees and green grass; the sea, into which plunges a mountain burning with fire; the rivers and fountains of waters, poisoned with a falling meteor; the luminaries of heaven, sun, moon, and stars, smitten with darkness.

As the Apostle in the previous sealing-vision had obtained the pledge of Israel's security, the Church's ultimate safety and triumph; so, through this new series of symbols, he receives the pledge and assurance of God's judgments on an unbelieving world—the overturn and destruction of every citadel and bulwark of evil which has hitherto opposed the triumph of truth. The progress of the siege is necessarily slow. It may be seven encirclings and yet seven again. The faith and the patience of the true Israel is sorely tried, as they cry aloud in the anguish of hope deferred, "Lord, how long?" The scoffers on the battlements seem to hurl their taunts and missiles with impunity—no split is seen in the walls, no premonitory symptoms of a breach. But come it will.

Since John stood in Patmos, many circuits have been completed; many a time have these herald-angels, in the past history of Christendom and of the world, sounded their martial trumpets; nation has risen against nation and kingdom against kingdom; every fresh blast, every fresh mustering of the hosts for the battle—every startling calamity—the famine, the pestilence, the fall of the Siloam-tower, the storm which has strewn the coast with wrecks and filled desolate hearts with agony—all these tell of the nearer approach to the grand consummation, when 'the shout of the people,' the cry of united Israel—the prayers of the true Church of God, now ascending apparently in vain—will obtain the expected response in a voice from Heaven, saying, "It is done!"

In the midst, then, of these very judgments which now passed before the eye of John—amid these trumpet-peals which carried the sound of woe to the guilty world, there were blended notes of comfort and encouragement to every drooping, desponding spirit. The triumph of truth might be chequered, but it would be sure and complete. As in the case of Jericho, "our weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." Human might and human power can do nothing in themselves against the bulwarks of evil. "We have no might against this great multitude, neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon You." "Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward." "Stand still, and see the salvation of God." "For He brings down those who dwell on high; the lofty city He lays it low, He lays it low even to the ground, He brings it even to the dust." "The right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord does valiantly." "The haughtiness of man shall be laid low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted on that day." As of the type, so of the antitype will it be in due time said and sung: "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about many days."

We may even carry further the resemblance to this old story of Israel's border city—connecting it with the reference which we have previously pointed out in the palm-bearing vision, to the Feast of Tabernacles. That feast, among the other incidents it commemorated, embraced that of the siege of Jericho. For we are told that during its continuance, a procession, bearing branches of palm, accompanied with the sound of trumpets, entered the courts of the temple for seven successive days; and that, on the seventh day, they compassed seven times the altar with the same trumpet-blowings, singing their Hosanna.

At the true Feast of Tabernacles in the Heavenly Temple, when the redeemed enter on their everlasting bliss and everlasting rest, they will be able to commemorate, with triumph, their toilsome struggles, their long marches around the defiant walls of earth's unbelief, when they had nothing but faith to sustain the assurance of ultimate victory.

And as a befitting termination of this necessarily rapid and cursory reference to the trumpet-visions, let us only farther note the closing picture given under the sounding of the seventh Angel. "The temple of God was opened in Heaven" (Rev. 11:19). The impenetrable veil which screens from mortal sight the mysteries of that true "Holy of Holies," was for the moment drawn aside. And what is the disclosure made to the eye of the Apostle? It is another old memory of Jericho, more sacred even than its trumpets. There was seen in this Temple "the Ark of His covenant." Glorious and comforting vision with which to terminate all these terrific trumpet-soundings—these symbols of wrath and judgment—the voices of lightnings and thunders! The walls of the world's Jericho have fallen—its bulwarks are demolished, and Israel's possession of the better Canaan is secured. But, as if to remind John, and to remind the Church in every age, of the secret of all her past victories, and to give her the pledge of her eternal rest, he gazes on the familiar symbol so often and so long associated with the fortunes and the history of the Hebrew people—the safeguard of their liberties—the rallying-point in every hour of disaster; but which had now to him a still deeper and holier significance as the type of the Great Propitiatory—the true Covenant Ark. In the glories of His Divine person and the fullness of His mediatorial work, Jesus is set in the Heavenly Temple, the pledge and guarantee of eternal safety and peace to the Church purchased with His blood. "Because I live you shall live also."

In the same closing vision, the twenty-four Elders—the symbolic representatives of the whole Church of the redeemed—are further pictured as falling down on their faces in an act of supreme adoration, and breaking forth in one glorious ascription, saying, "We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is, and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have reigned."

Be it ours, meanwhile, patiently to wait such an assured and glorious consummation; "looking for, and hastening unto, the coming of the day of God." Let us take our festal palm-branch and follow the pealing trumpets—trumpets of joy to the Church, trumpets of woe and judgment to the world. The seventh Angel not having yet sounded, let us raise our Hosanna—the "Come, Lord Jesus!"—the reiterated key-note of the Book, with its divine harmonies. "Yet a little while and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." "The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible." "The coming of the Lord draws near."

The downfall of the world's anti-christian powers—the destruction of its moral Jerichos—will be coincident with this great event, for which all creation longs. May He who holds the seven-sealed roll in His hand hasten the day, when the last trumpet voice shall be heard, and the last shout of prayer ascend, "Your kingdom come!"—bringing the glad response, ushering in the longed-for moment and announcement, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign to the ages of the ages!"