Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?

PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

Some interpreters understand the different parts of the Apocalypse as each leading the reader through the same period of time, each adding a new perspective to that period.  In this view—called “recapitulation”—each part of Revelation ends with the return of Christ or beyond.  For instance, in this view, both the seven seals and the seven trumpets cover the period from the cross to the return of Christ.

Other interpreters understand the visions of Revelation to be in a strict chronological sequence from beginning to end, with only one final climax at the end of the book. One application of this principle is the suggestions that:

      • The seventh seal includes the seven trumpets, and
      • The seventh trumpet includes the seven plagues. 

On this basis, the seven seals comprise the entire rest of the book.

The purpose of this article is particularly to determine whether the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets.  This question may not matter much to a preterist, even though preterists often defend recapitulation (repetition).  However, this matter is decisive for other interpretations of the Apocalypse.

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

MAIN PARTS OF REVELATION

The Book of Revelation may be divided into the following main parts:

      • Seven Letters (chapters 1-3);
      • Seven Seals (4-7);
      • Seven Trumpets (8-11);
      • Seven Wars (12-14); and
      • Seven Plagues (15-19)

For more information, see The temple in heaven.

ARGUMENTS FOR

The following arguments support the view that the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets:

      • The person who numbered the text of Revelation put the seventh seal in a new chapter with the trumpets, perhaps implying that the seventh seal belongs with the seven trumpets.
      • Nothing really happens when the seventh seal is broken—only silence. This may imply that the real action of the seventh seal is the seven trumpets.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

The following arguments oppose the view that the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets:

THEMES

The seals are about God’s people; their experience on earth. The trumpets are about unbelievers and about what God does to reconcile them back to Him. Since the themes of the seals and the trumpets are so different, the trumpets cannot be part of the seals.

THE RETURN OF CHRIST

The seals conclude with the return of Christ and “a new heaven and a new earth.” The seven trumpets jump back in time to the old earth of sin and sorrow and, therefore, cannot be part of the seventh seal.

THE LAST JUDGMENT

The silence in the seventh seal is because all the seals are now broken and the book is being read. Below, this article explains that the sealed book is the book of life. It contains the names of the people who will inherit eternal life. Since the book of life will be opened in the final judgment at the end of the Millennium (20:12), the silence of the seventh seal results from that final judgment. This confirms that the disasters of the old earth, as described in the trumpets, cannot be part of the seventh seal.

JUMPS BACK IN TIME

The seventh trumpet is the return of Christ but the next chapter, which begins the next main part of Revelation (the seven wars), jumps back in time to the birth of Christ (12:2, 5). Since this is what happens in the switch from the seven trumpets to the seven wars, the same is possible in the switch from the seven seals to the seven trumpets, namely, that the trumpets jump back to the time of Christ.

RECAPITULATION

Both the seven seals and the seven wars start at the time of Christ and reach to Christ’s second coming. Thus, they, cover the entire Christian age. The question is not whether the Apocalypse uses recapitulation—that is clear. Furthermore, since these two main parts of Revelation both cover the whole Christian age, and since all three parts (seals, trumpets, and the wars) conclude with Christ’s return, it is very likely that the trumpets also cover the whole church age.

DANIEL’S PROPHECIES

It is generally accepted that the visions in Daniel build on each other—each providing additional insights with respect to periods covered by previous visions. Since Daniel is the foundation on which Revelation is built, we might also expect recapitulation in the Apocalypse.

TIME, TIMES AND A HALF

Both the seven trumpets (Rev 4-7) and the seven wars (Rev 12-14) cover the “time, times, and a half”-period, which is described as the period of persecution of God’s people.  Because the seals are about God’s people and about their persecution, the seals necessarily also cover this period. That would mean that all three of these main parts cover this important period, which means that these prophecies cover the same period.

CONTRADICTIONS

In the first trumpet (8:7), a third of the trees and all the green grass are burned up. However, in the fifth trumpet (9:4), the grass and the trees are protected. This is one example of the contradictions that would result from a strictly literal and chronological reading of the text.

CHIASM

Revelation 8:2-6 is the introduction to the trumpets. This passage has a literary structure called a chiasm which means that it forms a self-contained unit. Since Rev 8:1 does not have a place in this chiasm, it implies that 8:1 does not form part of the trumpets.

CONCLUSION

The relationship between the seals and trumpets may be explained as follows: In the first five seals, the focus is on God’s people. The sixth seal mentions the lost hiding in the mountain before Christ’s return (6:15-17) but then continues to focus on God’s people in chapter 7. The silence in the seventh seal relates to the judgment of the dead at the end of the Millennium (20:12) and, therefore, shifts the focus to the lost. The trumpets then jump back in time to explain what God did to turn them from their disastrous paths.

– END OF SUMMARY –

ARGUMENTS FOR

The following arguments support the view that the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets:

CHAPTER AND VERSE DIVISIONS

The person who numbered the text of Revelation put the seventh seal in a new chapter with the trumpets, perhaps implying that the seventh seal consists of the seven trumpets. However, chapter and verse divisions are not inspired.  It was added about a thousand years after Christ.

NO ACTION

Nothing really happens when the seventh seal is broken—only silence for 30 minutes.  The same applies to the seventh trumpet—nothing happens, except that God is praised for haven taken control of the world. The fact that there is no specific action in the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet may support the view that the real action of the seventh seal is the seven trumpets, and that the seventh trumpet really consists of the seven plagues.  

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

The following observations oppose the view that the seven trumpets are part of the seventh seal: 

DIFFERENT THEMES

The themes of the seals and the trumpets are very different:

    • The seals are about God’s people; their experience on earth and how the Son of God redeems them (e.g. 6:9; 7:3, 14). The only place where unbelievers are mentioned in the seals is in the sixth seal, where they hide in the mountains “from the presence of Him who sits on the throne” (6:16).
    • The trumpets focus on the earth dwellers (8:13), namely the people that do not have the seal of God (9:4) and the people that rejoice over the death of the two witnesses (11:10). The trumpets explain what God does to bring them back to Him. 

Because the themes of the seals and the trumpets are so vastly different, the trumpets cannot be part of the seals.

THE SEALS END WITH THE NEW WORLD

In the sixth seal, we find the heavenly signs that point to Jesus’ second coming (6:12-14). It mentions the day of the Lord itself; “the great day of their wrath has come” (6:17).

After an interruption (7:1-8), the sixth seal continues in 7:9 where God’s people stand before His throne (Rev 7:9, 15).  They are the answer to the question at the very end of the sixth chapter: “Who is able to stand?”  They are led by the Lamb to the water of life (7:17). This means that “the end of the age” (Dan. 12:13) has arrived; including Christ’s second corning, the Millennium, judgment, and “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1). 

If the sixth seal brings in the “new earth,” then the seventh seal of silence must be even later. Then the seventh seal cannot include the seven trumpets because the trumpets jump back in time to the old earth of sin and sorrow.  This does not make sense if understood chronologically.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAST JUDGMENT

This conclusion is confirmed by an understanding of what the “silence” in 8:1 is.  In Revelation 5, John sees a Lamb taking a book sealed with seven seals. He breaks the seals in Revelation 6, causing catastrophes on earth. However, in 7:9 the scene returns to heaven with the great multitude standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Then, when the last seal is broken, and the book is now completely open, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour (8:1). 

The silence must be because all the seals are now broken and the beings in heaven are “able to open the book or to look into it” (5:3). To understand what the silence is, we need to understand what this book is.

BOOK OF LIFE

For the reasons below, it is proposed that the sealed book is the book of life. In this book are written the names of all people who will inherit eternal life. All other people will suffer the second death (20:15):

      • The book of life is also called “the book of life of the Lamb” (13:8; 21:27). Since Jesus appears as a slain Lamb in Revelation 5 to receive the sealed book (5:6-7), this is “the Lamb’s book of life.” 
      • The sealed book is only completely unsealed at the end of current human history (6:12-17). The book of life, similarly, is opened in the last judgment at the end of the Millennium (20:12).
      • Jesus “has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals” (5:5). In other words, His sacrifice on the cross gave Him the authority to open the book.  But, through the cross, Jesus also “purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (5:9).  The sealed book, therefore, is INTIMATELY RELATED TO REDEMPTION. This implies that it is the book of life, for that book contains the names of those who will be redeemed from the earth.
      • In Revelation 10, an angel brings a little opened book down from heaven. John has to eat this little book and “prophecy again” (10:11). This cannot be the sealed book which the Lamb receives in Revelation 5 because:
        • The seventh seal will only be broken AFTER the return of Christ (6:17) while
        • The book in Revelation 10 is open when brought down to earth as something that must be prophesied (10:11), which must happen BEFORE the return of Christ.

CONCLUSION

Since the sealed book is the book of life, and since the book of life is opened in the final judgment at the end of the Millennium (20:12), the silence of the seventh seal is related to the judgment before the great white throne. This confirms the previous conclusion, namely that the seventh seal is “the end of the age.” This means that the disasters of the old earth, as contained in the trumpets, cannot be part of the seventh seal.  Rather, the trumpets jump back in time.

EVIDENCE OF RECAPITULATION

This section provides evidence of recapitulation (that different parts of Revelation cover the same time periods).

THE SWITCH FROM THE TRUMPETS TO THE WARS

In the seventh trumpet, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord” (11:15). This is, then, “the end of the age.” But the next chapter, which begins the next main part of Revelation (the seven wars), jumps back to the time when Christ was born (12:2, 5). Since this happens in the switch from the trumpets to the wars, the same is possible in the switch from the seals to the trumpets. In other words, that the trumpets jump back to the time of Christ.

FROM JESUS TO JESUS

The seals start at the time of Christ. The twofold introductory scene in Rev 4-5 points to Jesus’s enthronement in heaven after His ascension (See Revelation 5). The seals reach to Christ’s second coming and even beyond. Thus the seals cover the entire Christian era.

The vision of the seven wars (chapters 12 to 14), starts with a woman giving birth to a male child, which also refers to when the Son of God was born as a human being. It concludes at the end of Revelation 14 with the harvest, which is Armageddon (See Armageddon).  The vision of the seven wars, therefore, again covers the entire Christian era.

Consequently, the question is not whether the Apocalypse uses recapitulation—that is clear.  The question is rather whether the trumpets recapitulate the seals. Since the two main parts of Revelation, one before and one after the trumpets, both cover the whole Christian era, and since the seals, the trumpets, and the wars conclude with Christ’s return, it is very likely that the trumpets also cover the whole church age.

DANIEL’S PROPHECIES

A strong relationship exists between the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel.  For example:

      • The beast from the sea (Rev 13:1-2) is directly linked to the four beasts of Daniel 7.
      • The seven heads of the beast in Revelation are or include the beasts in Daniel (See The seven heads of the beast).
      • The important period of a “time, times and a half,” found in Revelation 11, 12, and 13, is first mentioned in Daniel 7:25.
      • The interruption in the trumpets (Revelation 10) is a continuation of Daniel 12 (Compare the oaths in Daniel 12:7 and Rev 10:5-6).
      • Both books belong to the same type of literature, namely, apocalyptic prophecy. These are the only predominantly apocalyptic books in the Bible.

It is generally accepted that the visions in Daniel build on each other—each providing additional insights with respect to periods covered by previous visions.  Since Revelation is built on Daniel, we might also expect recapitulation in the Apocalypse.

TIME, TIMES AND HALF A TIME

Both the seven trumpets (Rev 4-7) and the seven wars (Rev 12-14) refer to the period of “time, times, and a half” (11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:6).  Both these parts of Revelation, therefore, cover this important period. 

Everywhere in Daniel (where the period is first mentioned—Dan 7:25 & 12:7) and in Revelation, this is the period of persecution of God’s people.  Because the seals are about God’s people, and particularly about their persecution (6:9; 7:14), the seals necessarily also cover this period. That would mean that the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven wars cover this important period, which means that these prophecies cover the same period, but from different perspectives.

The interpretation of the “time, times, and a half” is critical to a correct understanding of the prophecies.  The article – The beast – identifies this as the period of the persecution of God’s people by the church of the Middle Ages.

CONTRADICTIONS IN A LITERAL READING

In the first trumpet (8:7), a third of the trees and all the green grass are burned up. However, in the fifth trumpet (9:4), the grass and the trees are protected.

Similarly, in the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-14) the stars fall to the earth.  However, in the fourth trumpet and in the fourth bowl (plague), these heavenly bodies are still in place (8:12; 16:8).

A strictly literal and chronological interpretation, therefore, results in contradictions.

CHIASTIC STRUCTURE

Revelation 8:2-6 is the introduction to the trumpets. This passage has a literary structure called a chiasm.  In such a structure, the first element corresponds to the last, and the second to the one immediately preceding the last, etc.  The chiastic structure for 8:2-6 is as follows:

A  Seven angels with seven trumpets (2)
   B  Angel, altar, censer (3a)
      C  Incense, prayers of the saints (3b)
         D  Altar before the throne (3c)
      C’  Incense, prayers of the saints (4)
   B’  Angel, censer, altar (5)
A’  Seven angels with seven trumpets (6)

This means that 8:2-6 forms a self-contained unit.  Rev 8:1 does not seem to have a place in this chiastic structure, which implies that 8:1 does not form part of the trumpets.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven wars each begins at the time of Christ and concludes with His return.  They all cover the entire church age.

The sealed book is the book of life.

The silence in the seventh seal relates to the last judgment at the end of the Millennium.

Daniel is the foundation on which Revelation is built.

All three of these main parts (seals, trumpets, and wars) cover the persecution period of a “time, times, and a half.”

AVAILABLE ARTICLES ON REVELATION

INTRODUCTORY
   Why is the title of this website Revelation BY Jesus Christ?
   Every main part of Revelation begins in the temple in heaven.
   Are events described in chronological sequence? 
   Is a consistently literal interpretation appropriate?
   Does Revelation present Jesus as God?
   God’s throne – the center of the universe.
SEVEN SEALS
   Introduction to the Seven Seals – What book is this?
   Revelation 4:1-8 – Verse-by-verse
   Revelation 4:8-11 – Worship in God’s presence
   The 24 elders are human beings that rule under God.
   Revelation 5 is Christ’s enthronement after His ascension.
   The Sixth Seal concludes with Christ’s Return.
   Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?
   Seven seals explained
BABYLON
   Babylon; the mother of harlots – main article
   Babylon’s merchants are her false prophets.
   Babylon is not the reconstructed ancient city of Babylon.
   Babylon is the driving force behind the beast.
SEVEN-HEADED BEASTS
   The Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation identified
   The three beasts are three of the seven heads.
   The Seven Heads identified
REVELATION 13
   13:1-2 – The Beast relates to Daniel 7.
   13:3-4 – The fatal wound
   The beast of Revelation is the Mainstream Church of Christendom.
SEVEN PLAGUES
   The Plagues of Revelation – 16 articles

For further reading, Jon Paulien’s commentary is recommended. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.

3 Replies to “Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?”

  1. To help me understand your articles, can you share with me your hermetical approach? You seem to mostly take to be historical. You are not evangelical/dispensational. And I don’t believe you are a preterits or futurist.

    1. Hi John
      Yes, my interpretation of Revelation is historical, meaning that I understand Revelation to depict history, with a definite emphasis on the end-time.

      Preterists assume that accurate long term predictions are not possible and interpret Daniel and Revelation as describing events and conditions at the time these books were written. I, however, accept that it is possible for God to know the future and, therefore, do not accept the preterist approach. See, for example, my article on Antiochus.

      Dispensationalists understand everything in Revelation 4 and further to be part of the last seven years of Daniel 9, which begins with the rapture. I think separating the rapture from Christ’s return is a mistake. I also believe the last seven years came to an end when they stoned Stefan. These concepts are perhaps best brought out by my articles on Daniel 9.

      I believe the historicist approach comes to the text with fewer preconceived notions.

      Regards, Andries

  2. 1st seal – Gospel preached worldwide
    2nd Seal – No Peace on Earth, Wars continued on
    3rd Seal – Economic Turmoils
    4th Seal – Death by Wars, Famines, Diseases, Pestilence, Wild
    Beast
    5th Seal – Persecuted Souls under the grave (Earth is the
    Altar)
    from the cross to the second coming, Rapture of the
    the living. resurrection of the dead in Christ.
    6th Seal – Great Tribulation, Seven Bowls Judgement, Second
    Coming, first resurrection
    7th Seal – Start of Millennium (silence in Heaven), Seven
    Trumpet Judgement, White Throne Judgement,
    New Jerusalem.

    Key Points : 1st Seal to 5th Seal is simultaneous beginning
    from Pentecost up to Second Coming & First
    Resurrection

    Trumpets and Bowls are neither chronological,
    parallel, nor overlapping. Both happens in
    different time frames. The key is the Abyss or
    the bottomless pit, where it is often mentioned.
    The Angel that came out of the Abyss is Satan not
    the Beast.

    Before the Great Tribulation, Satan was cast
    down from the Heaven. At the End of the
    Millennium he was released and came up out of
    the Abyss.

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