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Revelation 9 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

The Sixth Trumpet, or Second Woe

The sixth trumpet, like the sixth seal (6:12--7:17), is much longer than the other members of the series. The difference in length is again commonly explained by assuming an interruption, or interlude, in the series (this time consisting of 10:1--11:13). There are two reasons for this: (1) John participates in the action in chapter 10, rather than just observing it; (2) if the trumpets represent an actual sequence of events that will take place before the end of the world, it is hard to imagine chapter 10 as part of that sequence. Will John return to earth someday, take and eat a scroll from the hand of a gigantic angel, as he does in that chapter? Probably not. It is easier to suppose that the time sequence has been interrupted, that we are now suddenly back in John's own time, and that John is experiencing a renewal of the prophetic call he received in chapter 1, in preparation for greater terrors to come.

These would be perfectly valid points if the trumpet series were a literal recital of events to happen on earth, in just that order. But it is not. Rather, it is a literal recital of what John saw. The series points to the terrible reality of God's judgment on the world. But that judgment (whenever and however it may come) will not simply be a rerun of John's visions. When chapters 9-10 are viewed as accounts of John's visionary experiences on the island of Patmos in the late first century, there is no need to suppose any kind of break or interruption between them. Even within the so-called interlude, John is explicitly reminded that the trumpet sequence is still going on (10:6-7). Just as chapter 7 belongs to the sixth seal, so 10:1--11:13 should be read as part of the sixth trumpet, not as a time-out or an intermission standing outside the series. The sixth trumpet, therefore, includes not only the judgment proper (9:13-19) but also considerable material bearing on the human response to this judgment and the preceding ones (9:20--11:13).

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