The first four plagues are general and not interpreted individually.

This is an article in the series on the vision of the seven last plagues (Rev 15-16).

Summary

In the Book of Revelation, there are several series of seven, of which the most important are the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowl plagues. The first four of each of these series of seven are general and non-specific and should not be individually interpreted. But the last three in each series represent very specific historical events and are individually interpreted. This approach is justified as follows:

The Number Four

In Revelation, the number four symbolizes the entire earth, for example, “the four corners of the earth” (Rev 7:1). For this reason, Revelation uses four words to describe the population of the world where one word would have sufficed, for example, “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9; cf. 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15).

Creation has four elements.

Revelation describes the creation as composed of four elements; the earth, the sea, the waters, and the heavens (Rev 14:7). Both the first four trumpets and the first four plagues target those four components of man’s environment and in the same sequence (Rev 8:7-8, 10, 12; 16:2-4, 8). These trumpets and plagues, therefore, are understood as various plagues that will fall on man’s total environment.

The First Four are short.

The seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven plagues cover, in total, 182 verses of which the first four seals, first four trumpets, and first four plagues, in total, cover 12%. One, therefore, should not put too much focus on the first four of a series.

The Fourth Seal is a Composite.

The second seal is a great sword that men would slay one another (Rev 6:4). The third horse brings famine (Rev 6:5-6). The fourth seal includes both.

Conclusion

The first four seals, trumpets, and plagues are, therefore, understood as worldwide and as ‘highly figurative’, meaning that not each object or event should be separately interpreted. But the fifth, sixth, and seventh in each series represent very specific historical events and should be individually interpreted.

– End of Summary –

This is the end of the summary. If you would like to skip the detail below, the next article in this series is – The First Four Plagues show that people with the mark of the beast will not repent. Alternatively, see the List of all articles on the Seven Last Plagues.


Revelation has several Series s Sevens.

Received the Sealed Book

In Revelation 5, Jesus receives a scroll sealed with seven seals (Rev 5:1, 7).  In Revelation 6 to 8, He breaks the seals one by one. Each seal results in dramatic events on earth. 

In Revelation 8 to 11, seven angels blow seven trumpets, each with dramatic consequences on earth. 

And then in Revelation 16, seven angels pour seven bowls with the seven last plagues out on earth, with catastrophic consequences.

There are several other sevens in Revelation. 

Purpose of this Article

This article proposes that the first four of each of these series of seven are general and non-specific. In other words, they are highly figurative, and should NOT BE INDIVIDUALLY INTERPRETED. But the last three in each series are specific and interpreted individually.  

This approach is justified as follows:

(1) The Number Four symbolizes the entire earth.

For example:

I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth” (Rev 7:1).

This is also seen in the fact that FOUR WORDS are often used to describe the population of the world, where one word would have been sufficient:

    • Tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:9);
    • Nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues (Rev 7:9);
    • Peoples and nations and tongues and kings (Rev 10:11);
    • Peoples and tribes and tongues and nations (Rev 11:9);
    • Tribe and people and tongue and nation (Rev 13:7);
    • Nation and tribe and tongue and people (Rev 14:6);
    • Peoples and nations and tongues and kings (Rev 17:15);

(2) Creation consists of Four Elements.

Revelation describes the creation as composed of four elements:

Worship him who made the heavens,
the earth, the sea and the springs of water
” (Rev 14:7).

The first four trumpets respectively attack exactly those elements (Rev 8:7-8, 10, 12). The first four plagues target the same four components of man’s environment and in the same sequence (Rev 16:2-4, 8). These trumpets and plagues, therefore, are understood as an attack on man’s total environment. They are merely various plagues that will fall on the entire earth.

(3) The First Four are very short.

Thirdly, the average length of the description of the last three of a series is ten times longer than the first four:

    • The first four seals cover 8 of the 35 verses of the seals (Rev 6:1-8:1).
    • The first four trumpets cover 6 of the 63 verses of the trumpets (Rev 8:2-11:18).
    • The first four plagues cover 8 of the 84 verses of the plagues Rev (16:1-19:21).

Some interpreters spend more time on the first four of a series than on the last three. For the reasons above, this seems to be the wrong approach.

(4) The Fourth Seal is a composite of the previous seals.

Lastly, the fourth seal seems like a composite of the previous two:

      1. The rider of the second horse has a great sword. It was given to him to take peace from the earth; that men would slay one another (Rev 6:4). 
      2. The third horse brings famine (Rev 6:5-6).
      3. The name of the fourth horse is Death, killing and it with the sword and with famine.

Conclusion

The first four seals, trumpets, and plagues are, therefore, understood as worldwide and general. They are regarded as ‘highly figurative’, meaning that not each object or event should be separately interpreted:

      • The first four seals describe the experience of God’s people on earth.
      • The first four trumpets are plagues on the unrepentant world, to bring them to repentance.
      • Similarly, the first four plagues are various plagues that fall on the people with the mark of the beast.

But the fifth, sixth, and seventh in each series represent very specific historical events. They are also symbolic, but here most elements of the symbols should be individually interpreted.

The Interludes explain the Series.

In each of the three sevens under discussion, we find an interlude between the sixth and the seventh elements. These interludes provide background information that explains the series less abstractly:

      • The interlude in the seals reveals God’s people (Rev 7), indicating that the seals describe the experience of God’s people.
      • The interlude in the trumpets (Rev 10-11:13) describes the proclamation of the gospel to a fallen world.
      • The interlude in the plagues (Rev 16:15) is more difficult to find but is discussed below.

Final Conclusions

Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?

Summary

Two Views

The Book of Revelation divides into several main parts. It begins with the letters to the seven churches (ch. 1-3) and ends with the Millennium (ch. 20) and “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1) (ch. 21-22). In the body of the book, we find four main sections:

      • The Seven Seals (ch. 4-7);
      • The Seven Trumpets (ch. 8-11);
      • The Seven Wars (ch. 12-14); and
      • The Seven Plagues (ch. 15-19).

Another article shows that, during the end-time persecution of God’s people as described by Revelation 13 and 14, people will receive either the mark of the beast or the seal of God. As soon as everybody on earth has received either of these marks, the seven plagues will begin to fall. The plagues, therefore, are limited to the end-time only. The following are two opposing views with respect to the seven seals, seven trumpets, and the seven wars:

The recapitulation view is that these three main divisions of Revelation describe the same period, namely the church age; from the cross to the return of Christ, but from different perspectives:

        • The seven seals emphasize the experience of God people (e.g., Rev 6:9; 7:3; 7:14).
        • The seven trumpets are God’s warnings to the world and explain how the people experience and respond to His warnings (e.g., Rev 8:13; 9:4; 11:10).
        • The seven wars (Rev 12-14) build on Daniel’s visions to identify the organizations involved in the persecution of God’s people. This section identifies the dragon, the beast, the false prophet (the beast from the earth), and the image of the beast.

In another view, the visions of Revelation are listed strictly chronologically from beginning to end, with only one final climax at the end of the book. In this view, the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets

The following seems to support the view that the seventh seal DOES INCLUDE the seven trumpets:

      • Chapters 8 to 11 of Revelation describe the trumpets and the seventh seal (Rev 8:1) is part of chapter 8.
      • Nothing happens in the seventh seal—only silence. So, perhaps this means that the real action of the seventh seal is the seven trumpets. 

However, for the following reasons, the seventh seal CANNOT include the seven trumpets:

1) Chapters and Verses

Chapter and verse breaks are not inspired. They were only added in the 13th century.

2) Different Themes

The themes of the seals and the trumpets are very different; even opposites. This difference in themes implies that the warning trumpet cannot be part of the seventh seal.

3) The sixth seal is Christ’s return.

The sixth seal describes a point in time during Christ’s return (Rev 6:12-14; 6:17) and introduces the new heaven and new earth (e.g., Rev 7:17). The seventh seal, therefore, must be later a later event. It follows, since the trumpets describe the old world of sin and sorrow, that they cannot be included in the seventh seal.

4) Satan’s Objections Refuted

The seventh seal describes what happens when the seventh seal of the book is broken. A previous article concluded as follows:

    • The book (Rev 5:1) is the Book of Life, identifying the people whom God had elected to eternal life.
    • The seals of the book, which prevent the beings in heaven from reading it, are Satan’s informed objections to the grace God grants His elect. Satan accuses God of unfair judgment.
    • That nobody is able to open that book (Rev 5:3) symbolizes that the heavenly beings are unable to refute Satan’s objections. In other words, they are unable to prove that God’s judgments are always perfect.
    • Since God will execute His judgments through Christ’s return, He delays Christ’s return UNTIL Satan has been FULLY refuted.
    • That Jesus breaks the seals (e.g., Rev 6:1) means that He directs events on earth to refute Satan’s objections.

Consequently, when the seventh and final seal is broken, all of Satan’s accusations have been refuted and all barriers to understanding God’s judgments are removed. Then there would be no further need to allow evil to continue to reign on this planet and God could implement His judgments through the resurrection of His people (Rev 20:4) and the destruction of His enemies (Rev 19:20-21).

Therefore:

1) The silence of the seventh seal results from the sorrow in God’s heart when billions of people are put to death (Rev 19:21).

2) The trumpets, describing the disasters of the old earth, cannot be part of the seventh seal but must describe an earlier time.

5) Switches jump back in time.

The trumpets end with Christ’s return (Rev 11:15) but the next vision (the seven wars) jumps back to the time of Christ’s birth (Rev 12:2; 12:5). Since this happens in the switch from the trumpets to the wars, the same probably also happens in the switch from the seals to the trumpets.

6) FROM CHRIST’S BIRTH TO HIS RETURN

Both the seven seals and the seven wars explicitly begin with Christ’s first advent and end with His return (Rev 5:5; 6:17; 12:5; 14:14). Both, therefore, cover the entire Christian era. Consequently:

1) It is clear that Revelation uses recapitulation.

2) Since the two main parts before and after the trumpets both cover the whole Christian era, and since ALL THREE of these main parts conclude with Christ’s return, it is very likely that the trumpets also begin with Christ’s first advent.

7) THE TIME, TIMES, AND A HALF

Both Daniel and Revelation describe the “time, times, and a half a time” as a period of persecution of God’s people (Dan 7:25; 12:7). Both the trumpets and the wars cover this period (Rev 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:6). Since the focus of the seals is also the persecution of God’s people (Rev 6:9; 7:14), IT MUST ALSO COVER THIS PERIOD. But that would mean that all three of the seals, trumpets, and wars cover this period.

8) THE CHIASM

Revelation 8:2-6 is the introduction to the trumpets and has a literary structure called a chiasm. This shows that these verses form a unit. Since Revelation 8:1 is not part of this unit, it does not form part of the trumpets. (For more detail, see Chiasm.) 

9) RECAPITULATION IN DANIEL

Daniel the prophetSince, as is generally accepted, Daniel is the foundation on which Revelation is built, and since, as is also generally accepted, the visions in Daniel build on each other—each providing additional insights concerning periods covered by previous visions, we might the same in Revelation.

10) A LITERAL READING RESULTS IN MANY CONTRADICTIONS.

The idea that the seven trumpets are included in the seventh seal is part of a strictly literal and chronological interpretation of Revelation. But such an interpretation results in many contradictions. For example, in the first trumpet, all the green grass is burned up (Rev 8:7) but, in the fifth trumpet, the grass is protected (Rev 9:4).

CONCLUSION

The trumpets are not part of the seventh seal.

Another article shows that Revelation does NOT describe events in chronological sequence. 

– END OF SUMMARY –


PURPOSE

The Book of Revelation may be divided into main parts, namely:

      • Seven Letters (ch. 1-3)
      • Seven Seals (ch. 4-7);
      • Seven Trumpets (ch. 8-11);
      • Seven Wars (ch. 12-14);
      • Seven Last Plagues (ch. 15-19)
      • The Millennium (ch. 20); and
      • The New Jerusalem (ch. 21-22).

One view is that some of these different main parts describe the same period, each adding a different perspective to that period. This is called ‘recapitulation’. In this view, both the seven seals and the seven trumpets cover the period from the cross to the return of Christ.

Another view is that the visions of Revelation are listed in a strict chronological sequence FROM BEGINNING TO END, with only one final climax at the end of the book. In this view:

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

The purpose of this article is specifically to determine whether the seventh seal includes the seven trumpets.

ARGUMENTS FOR

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

CHAPTER AND VERSE DIVISIONS

The person who numbered the text of Revelation included the seventh seal in a new chapter with the trumpets. This, perhaps, imply that the seventh seal consists of the seven trumpets. However, chapter and verse divisions are not inspired. They were added in the 13th century after Christ.

NO ACTION IN THE SEVENTH

Nothing happens when the seventh seal is broken—only silence for 30 minutes (Rev 8:1). The same applies to the seventh trumpet – nothing happens – except that God is praised for haven taken control of the world (Rev 11:16). The fact that there is no specific action in the seventh seal or in the seventh trumpet may support the view that their real action is described in the next series of seven.  

ARGUMENTS AGAINST

On the other hand, the following observations OPPOSE the view that the seven trumpets are part of the seventh seal: 

1) 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. Rev 6:9; 7:3; 7:14). The only place where the seals mention unbelievers is in the sixth seal – at Christ’s return – where they hide in the mountains “from the presence of Him who sits on the throne” (Rev 6:16).

In contrast, the trumpets focus on those who oppose God (e.g., Rev 8:13) – a phrase used by Revelation for the people who do not have the seal of God (Rev 9:4) and who rejoice over the death of the two witnesses (Rev 11:10). The torment of the trumpets is the work of these “two prophets” (Rev 11:10) who “stand before the Lord of the earth” (Rev 11:4).

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

2) THE SEALS END WITH THE NEW WORLD.

The sixth seal commences with the heavenly signs of Jesus’ second coming (Rev 6:12-14; cf. Matt 24:29-30). It continues to describe the day of the Lord, namely, “the great day of their wrath” (Rev 6:17).

After an interruption (Rev 7:1-8), the sixth seal continues in Rev 7:9 by describing God’s people standing 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?” (Rev 6:17) They are led by the Lamb to the water of life (Rev 7:17).

It should, therefore, be clear 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” (Rev 21:1). 

Since the sixth seal brings in the “new earth,” the silence of the seventh seal must be even later. Another article interprets the seventh seal as the sorrow in God’s heart when the lost are put to death when Christ returns (Rev 19:21). It follows, since the trumpets describe the old world of sin and sorrow, that the seventh seal cannot include the trumpets.

3) THE SEVEN WARS BEGIN WITH JESUS’ BIRTH.

In the seventh trumpet, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord” (Rev 11:15). This is, then, “the end of the age” (Rev 12:13). But Revelation 12, which begins the next main vision (the seven wars), jumps back to the time when Christ was born (Rev 12:2; 12:5). Since this happens in the switch from the trumpets to the wars, the same could also happen in the switch from the seals to the trumpets.

4) BOTH THE SEALS AND THE WARS BEGIN AND END WITH JESUS.

The seals begin with Jesus’s enthronement in heaven after His ascension and reach to Christ’s second coming and (perhaps) even beyond. Thus the seals cover the entire Christian era.

The vision of the seven wars (chapters 12 to 14) does the same. It begins with a woman giving birth to a male child (Rev 12:5), which refers to Jesus’ birth, and concludes at the end of Revelation 14 with the harvest, which is Christ’s return (Rev 14:14). The vision of the seven wars, therefore, also covers the entire Christian era.

Consequently, the question is not whether Revelation uses recapitulation—that much is clear. The question is, rather, whether the trumpets recapitulate the seals and the wars. 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.

5) THE SEALS, TRUMPETS, AND WARS ALL COVER THE TIME, TIMES, AND HALF A TIME.

Both the seven trumpets (Rev 8-11) and the seven wars (Rev 12-14) cover the period known as the “time, times, and a half” (Rev 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:6). Everywhere in Daniel (Dan 7:25; 12:7) and in Revelation, this is the period of persecution of God’s people. Since the seals are about God’s people, and particularly about their persecution (cf. Rev 6:9; 7:14), the seals necessarily also cover this period. That would mean that the seven seals, trumpets, and wars all cover this same important period of a “time, times, and a half.” In other words, the seals, trumpets, and wars CANNOT symbolize consecutive events.

The interpretation of the “time, times, and a half” is critical to correctly understanding 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.

6) THE 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 second-to-last, etc. The chiastic structure in these verses 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 Revelation 8:2-6 forms a self-contained unit and Revelation 8:1 does not have a place in this chiastic structure, which implies that 8:1 does not form part of the trumpets.

7) RECAPITULATION IN DANIEL

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 the beasts in Daniel 7 (See – The seven heads of the beast).
      • The important period of a “time, times and a half,” found in Revelation 11:2-3, 12:6; 12:14, and 13:5, is first mentioned in Daniel 7:25.
      • 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 two predominantly apocalyptic books in the Bible.

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

8) SATAN’S OBJECTIONS REFUTED

The seventh seal describes what happens when the seventh seal of the book is broken. Since the book had seven seals (Rev 5:1) preventing the beings in heaven from reading it (Rev 5:3), when the seventh seal is broken, they are able to read the book. The silence of the seventh seal (Rev 8:1) must be the consequence of reading the book.

As discussed:

The sealed book is THE BOOK OF LIFE, containing God’s judgments, indicating who will inherit eternal life and who will suffer the second death (Rev 20:15; cf. Rom 6:23). 

The seals are Satan’s accusations against the people whom God elected to eternal life. Satan accuses God of bad judgment.

Breaking the seals means to refute Satan’s objections. When the seventh seal is broken, it means that all of Satan’s accusations have been refuted.

In this interpretation, since God will execute His judgments when Christ returns, God delays Christ’s return UNTIL Satan has been FULLY refuted. Therefore, when the seventh seal is broken, and God’s judgments are fully explained, there remains no further reason to delay the execution of His judgments. Consequently:

1) The silence of the seventh seal results from the sorrow in God’s heart when billions of people are put to death (Rev 19:21). (See, Silence when the hiding multitude is put to death.)

2) The trumpets, describing the disasters of the old earth, CANNOT be part of the seventh seal but describe an earlier time.

9) A LITERAL READING IS SELF-CONTRADICTORY.

The idea that the seven trumpets are included in the seventh seal is part of a strictly literal and chronological interpretation of Revelation. But such an interpretation is self-contradictory. For example:

In the first trumpet, ALL the green grass is burned up (Rev 8:7). But, in the fifth trumpet (Rev 9:4), the grass is protected.

Similarly, in the sixth seal (Rev 6:12-14) the stars fall to the earth, but the people still hide in the mountains (Rev 6:15). And, in the fourth trumpet and in the fourth plague, these heavenly bodies are still in place (Rev 8:12; 16:8).

These are just some of the MANY contradictions that would result from a strictly literal and chronological reading of the text.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The trumpets are not part of the seventh seal.

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

For a related discussion, see – Are the events described in strict chronological sequence?


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