Jericho was a fortified city in the land of Canaan. YHWH told Joshua to march around the city once for six days with priests walking before the ark carrying seven trumpets of rams’ horns. On the seventh day they were to march around seven times and blow the trumpets. Then when they sound the long blast then all of the people were to shout and the wall of the city would fall down flat and the people would invade the city. When you read the book of Joshua it will often give the battle itself only a couple words — the focus is on worship. And in Joshua the commander of the army of the Lord reminds us that there is an invisible heavenly dimension to the battle. The sound of the trumpet is associated with judgment.
Revelation 8:2 (“Then I saw”) opens a worship scene. Seven angels that stand before God were given seven trumpets and the prayers of the saints and the smoke of the incense burned by an eighth angel rose before God. Then the vision continues with John hearing the trumpets sounded.
The first angel blew his trumpet — followed by the judgment of hail and fire, mixed with blood — and a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees, and all green grass. This should remind you of the seventh plague upon Egypt (cf. Exo 9:23-24), also a judgment of hail and fire.
The second angel blew his trumpet — and the judgment was that the sea became blood — and a third of the sea creatures died and a third of the ships were destroyed. This should remind you of the first plague upon Egypt (cf. Exo 7:17-21), also a judgment of water (the Nile) turned to blood.
The third angel blew his trumpet — and the judgment was that a third of the waters became bitter and many people died from the bitter water. This should remind you of the water of Marah (meaning bitter) because the people grumbled against Moses saying, “What shall we drink?” (cf. Exo 15:23-26). YHWH showed Moses a log that he threw in the water to make it sweet. And Scripture says, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of YHWH your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am YHWH, your healer.” The bitter water should remind the people of God not to grumble against God and His anointed but to obey God and they will not suffer the plagues that He put on the Egyptians.
The fourth angel blew his trumpet — and the judgment was that a third of the light from the sun, moon and stars was darkened so that a third of the day was dark and a third of the night was dark. This should remind you of the ninth plague upon Egpyt (cf. Exo 10:21-22) of darkness for three days also showing that it can get worse than this fourth trumpet judgment as we will see with the cycle of bowls.
The first four angels with trumpets are set apart from the following three just as in the previous cycle. There are other parallels with the previous cycle and these four trumpets. Most importantly, the previous cycle announced the riders and now we see the actual judgments. This intensifies from the former cycle.
John says, “And I saw, and I heard” (Rev 8:13) “an eagle crying…’Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!’ What follows then are three woe oracles in the prophetic tradition.
The fifth angel blew his trumpet — followed by the judgment of opening the shaft of the bottomless pit (the abyss) allowing smoke to rise like a furnace darkening the sun and the air and then locusts came from the smoke and those locusts were allowed to sting like a scorpion those not sealed to God. This plague of locusts should remind you of the eighth plague on Egypt (Exo 10:13-15, see also Joel 2). This plague explicitly only effects the wicked and not the saints, just like the plagues on Egypt. Poythress also notes that it lasts for five months, the entire time when you might see locusts — though locusts usually move on after a few days. These monstrous locusts are described and John tells us that their king is the angel of the bottomless pit whose name is Abaddon (Heb for destruction, Abaddon as a place/angel are mentioned in the OT wisdom poetry of Job, Psalm 88 and Proverbs) or Apollyon (Greek for destroyer). This may allude to the god Apollo, whom Nero and Domitian tried to imitate according to Poythress. If so, it is important to remember that just as the plagues on Egpyt were a judgment on their gods so also this plague shows that the Greek gods, if they exist at all, are only another name for Satan and his demons who are at the direction of God. The section concludes: “The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come” (Rev 9:12).
The sixth angel blew his trumpet — the judgment of the four angels bound at the great river Euphrates are released to kill a third of humanity with the number of mounted troops as twice ten thousand times ten thousand (a number too big to count). During this time there will be wars and rumors of wars. The text describes the “horses” they rode as like monsters with lion’s heads that breathe fire and smoke and sulfur and tails like serpents with a head that they use to kill. Serpents always remind one of Egypt who trusted in their military might and horses but were swallowed in the Sea of Extinction.
Next comes a summary statement: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev 9:20-21). That is a classic prophetic way to critique idol worship — idols cannot see, hear or walk, and the rest of the list also reminds one of the Ten Commandments. Like the Egpytians, people may harden their hearts and not repent.
“Then I saw…” opens the Rev 10:1 interlude as another angel came down in a description reminiscent of those in Daniel and Ezekiel for the glory and throne of God and swore by God that there would be no more delay but that in the days of the seventh angel’s trumpet the mystery of God would be fulfilled “just as he announced to his servants the prophets.” The seventh trumpet then marks the consummation of all things — the second coming of Christ.
The next paragraph begins, “Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again…” (Rev 10:8). John was told to eat the scroll that would make his stomach bitter (because it concerns suffering and woe) but in his mouth it would be sweet as honey. This should remind you of Ezekiel 3:3 where Ezekiel ate a scroll that tasted sweet as honey in his mouth (an episode that ends with a speech earthquake in Ezek 3:12). John prophesied: the nations will trample the holy city for forty-two months. Just in case there is any doubt that this refers to Jerusalem as is clear also from John saying, “their dead bodies will lie in the street of that great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified” (Rev 11:8). It should be noted that his crucifixion did not take place in the city but outside, though near it. And some of the other details do not fit the fall of Jerusalem, more about this later. Two witnesses were given authority to prophesy for 1260 days clothed in sackcloth, the witnesses are explained as the two olive trees and the two lampstands before God. These numbers, where a symbolic month is rounded to 30 days, is a period of three and a half years. This number in Daniel refers to the time between the destruction of Jerusalem that would later take place in AD 70 until the consummation. These witnesses, representing the church (as olive trees and lampstands do, the lampstand reminding one of the witnessing purpose of the church), have the power to stop rain from falling, to turn water to blood, and to strike the earth with all kinds of plagues and when they are done their testimony the beast from the bottomless pit will conquer them and kill them and their bodies will be in that great city I have already mentioned. The bodies of the two prophets will be on display for three and a half days and then they will be resurrected. For wisdom literature it is important that it is not four because that would mean complete destruction of God’s people. This section comes to a close with: “The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come” (Rev 11:14).
The seventh angel blew his trumpet and then there was shouting in heaven: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Thus what we see in this cycle is the fall of the great Jericho (symbolically called), the fall of Sodom & Egypt (symbolically called), the fall of Jerusalem. It shows us the seventh day where the army of the Lord marches around the city seven times blowing a horn each time and then the seventh time the people shout and the walls fall down. This time revealing the glory of God as the ark is seen. Jerusalem did fall in AD 70, part of the final judgment ahead of time, but some of the details do not match up with those events. This shows us too then how to understand this cycle as describing the whole period of time from then until now — it will be like the fall of Jerusalem but this time judgment for the great city of the world (cf. Rev 11:13). Poythress notes that the seven trumpets are modeled on the fall of Jericho narrative and the plagues upon the plagues on Egypt.