Poole on Revelation 8:5, 6: A Neglected and Offended High Priest

Verse 5:[1] And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into (or, upon[2]) the earth: and (Rev. 16:18) there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, (2 Sam. 22:8; 1 Kings 19:11; Acts 4:31) and an earthquake.


[And He took…the censer (now empty [Tirinus], after the incense was offered [Menochius]) and filled it with fire from the altar (namely, of burnt offering [Piscator, Tirinus], or, of sacrifice, which is named after the principal part τῶν ὁλοκαυτωμάτων, of burnt offering [Grotius]: for on that a perpetual fire was kept, not on the other [Piscator]: Others: From the fire which was in other censers placed upon the Altar [Menochius]), and cast (or, threw down [Beza, Piscator], poured out [Grotius]) upon the earth] That is, upon men savoring of earthly things (Cotterius): or, upon the visible Church, which is called the earth, Revelation 7:1, on which are trees and herbs, both green and withered: the same is called a field, or the world, Matthew 13 (Durham). Fire here signifies, either, 1. the Holy Spirit (Pareus, thus Gravius, Cluverus). For, as that sacrificial fire, 1. was heavenly, 2 Chronicles 7:1, 3; 2. was always preserved, Leviticus 6:13; 3. was kindling incense: so the Holy Spirit, 1. is from heaven, 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2. remains with us forever, John 14:16; Isaiah 59:21, neither is to be quenched, 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (Cluverus). The same was poured out in the likeness of fire upon the Apostles, Acts 2:3 (Pareus); and with His gifts He equips both the Church and its members, and especially its ministers, so that they might teach the Gospel with manifest power (Gravius). But this opinion agrees neither with the scope, nor with the following effects, as we shall see (Durham). Or, 2. the anger of God (Grotius, Cotterius, Forbes), who is a consuming fire[3] (Cotterius), whose anger everywhere in the Prophets is fire. See what things are on Mark 9:49 (Grotius). It denotes judgments sent by God upon the earth (Lightfoot’s Harmony, Chronicle, and Order of the New Testament 157), namely, upon Judea, as γῆ/earth is taken in this part of the Apocalypse. Thus fire is scattered out upon Jerusalem, Ezekiel 10:2 (Grotius). By this rite He indicates unto what those prayers had regard, which passing unto God, He had overspread with an agreeable aroma; that is, to obtain vengeance against the Inhabitants of the earth that had killed the saints (Mede’s Works 568). Fire here denotes most grievous and spiritual judgments pour out against the Church: for, to the ascending incense with the prayers of the Saints is opposed a descending fire, as a casting out and rejection of the prayers of others. The fire here taken from the altar denotes divisions and contentions concerning matters, not civil, but spiritual, Luke 12:49, 51-53 compared with Matthew 10:34-36, because of misguided zeal, pride, etc. (Durham). This is the fire of tumults which follow the preaching of the Gospel (certain interpreters in Pareus). To which it is objected that from this fire the High Priest had previously kindled His incenses (Pareus). But the Spirit wished to teach that the same death of Christ comes upon believers unto salvation, and upon the rebellious and profane unto the greater condemnation. Compare 2 Corinthians 2:16 (Cotterius). From one and the same altar and censer, one and the same fire sent sweet incense upward, and devouring wrath downward: this fire warms, purges, and refines the elect; but it burns enemies. From Christ is both the acceptance of the Saints, and wrath against the world, etc. (Forbes). This sign was given to the trumpeters (Forbes, Durham), who were standing, expecting that very thing, so that they might proceed to the execution κατὰ μέρος, by course (Forbes), and introduce the judgments restrained in chapter 7 (Durham).

[And were produced (that is, from the Throne or Innermost Sanctuary of the Temple, Revelation 4:5 [Mede’s Works 568]) thunderings and voices (that is, voices of thunder, or with thunder [Mede’s Works 568, thus Grotius, Hammond], as we said above, Revelation 4:5 [Grotius], so that and might be ἐξηγητικὸν/exegetical in the place of that is; or rather, ἓν διὰ δυοῖν, hendiadys [Mede’s Works 568]: In the place of φωναὶ καὶ βρονται, voices and thunderings, in this place is φωνῆς βροντῆς, the voice/noise of thunder in Revelation 6:1 [Grotius]), lightnings and an earthquake] By these words is described the oracle of Bath Kol, that is, the Daughter of voice,[4] or of thunder, by which God was formerly giving responses among the Ancient people, and He grants the same here to the prayers of the Saints. That is, as God spoke the Law, Exodus 19:16, so also He was as commonly publishing His tenets and oracles with thunder, as in John 12:28; Revelation 4:5; 6:1; 10:3. So also by an earthquake God was granting the prayers of the Apostles, Acts 4:31. In addition, see 2 Samuel 22:7-9, compared with Psalm 18 (Mede’s Works 568). Various outcomes of the preaching of the Gospel are here signified, even indeed the same as were previously signified by the opening of the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth Seal, but in a general way only, as I said; that is, the sermons of the Apostles with abundant success, and thence the consequent persecutions, heresies, etc. (Pareus). By the Holy Spirit charging the world and its sins, voices are made, that is, powerful conflicts; thunders, when men, seized by the fire of the Spirit of God, with the world unwilling, urge the commandments of Christ, as in the case of thunder, fire, enclosed in a cloud, attempts to burst forth by force; lightnings, when miracles and manifest judgments of God shine throughout the world; earthquakes, that is, powerful concussions of empires, etc. (Cluverus). These thunders are objects of terror and words of heavenly rebuke; voices, exhortations; lightnings, flashes of miracles; earthquakes, an enormous tumult and shaking of mortals, by which some are moved to piety, others to infidelity (Zegers). Others: All these things signify that new threats came from God, namely, through many prodigies, which Josephus[5] mentions, and Eusebius[6] in His Chronicle, partly also Tacitus.[7] Thus we also took lightnings and thunderings in the sense of threats in Revelation 4:5. Unto ἀστραπὰς/lightnings you would rightly refer the battle lines seen to rush together in heaven, and the arms glowing red, as Tacitus speaks, the fiery sword, as Josephus speaks, and that by a sudden fire the Temple was illuminated; unto βροντὰς/thunderings and φωνὰς/voices, the voice heard in the Temple, Let us depart from here; unto the earthquake, that the bronze gate opened spontaneously. See Josephus’ Jewish War 6:31, and Tacitus’ Histories 5 (Grotius). Thunderings, etc., are indeed sometimes indications of God heeding prayers, as in 1 Samuel 12:16, etc.; but here they denote some tremendous effect: as it is proven, 1. because they follow the projection of fire upon the earth; 2. because they precede the sounding of the Angels, who hitherto were restrained, now loosed, etc.; 3. from a comparision with Revelation 11:19; 16:18 (Durham). These are forewarnings of massive calamities (Ribera, Menochius), and of the terrible judgments of God (Forbes, thus Cappel), against the impious (Menochius, Ribera), which God stirs against the oppressors of the Church for the sake of the pious, groaning and praying under their tyranny (Cappel). The vengeance of God against the Jews is here noted, etc. (Hammond); or rather, against the Roman Empire (Mede’s Works 1124). [Now] with the Offering completed, and God granting the voice of thunder to the prayers of the Saints, the Trumpets follow (Mede’s Works 1124), of which the Epoch or beginning was soon after the death of Julian, last of the Pagan Emperors, around the year of our Lord 365 (Mede’s Works 813 and 1124).


I doubt not but by fire here, is to be understood the wrath of God, often in holy writ compared to fire, poured out upon the Roman empire, or the visible church. Upon which followed great judgments, and confusions, and tumults, expressed here, or ushered in, as before, Revelation 6:1, with thunderings; which being here more generally mentioned, are by and by more particularly expressed.


Verse 6:[8] And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.


[The Angels, etc.] Who were appointed to superintend the plagues of the Trumpets, with men employed to carry out the vision, through whom God executes His decrees. Therefore, Angels in these Visions hold the place of those over whom they are placed by God for the conducting of affairs; and because it is carried out by the common operations of Angels and men, it is said to be carried out with the Angels as authors, as if guides and leaders (Mede’s Works 569). The first Six Trumpeters are the Apostles and the subsequent preachers of the word, but the seventh is the Archangel (Pareus).

[They prepared themselves (namely, by taking their trumpets, and moving them to their mouths [Menochius, Cotterius]: God, when He uses men or Angels as instruments of His works, proceeds and prepares to work step by step, but does not fulfill it all at once [Cotterius]: By this preparation, a certain delay of Divine vengeance is signified, so that sinners might repent, etc. [Ribera]) to sound] That is, in order, or one after another (Durham); so that they might give the signal of God’s war against the Jews (Grotius). Now, these things concerning the Angels are certainly mentioned for the imitation of the faithful, and especially of Ministers; of whom under this figure it is required, 1. that they have trumpets, that is, gifts; 2. that they have a calling from God; 3. that they are prepared for their work, and are careful, faithful, and diligent in it; 4. that they proceed in order, etc. (Durham). This passage concerning the Prophecy of the Trumpets is obscure (Durham). In the Seals, open mention is made of war, famine, pestilence, etc. But in the Trumpets and Vials, matters are wrapped in the most obscure types, for in these the greatest matters whatsoever are treated. For, it is fitting that the types be clearer or more obscure in accordance with the importance of the matter (Cotterius). For the illumination of this Prophecy, some things are to be set down beforehand: 1. The Trumpets begin after the peace granted to the Church by Constantine the Great, and end when the ruin of Antichrist begins. 2. This Prophecy has regard to that concerning the Beast in Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 13, and is entirely contemporaneous with that, and is confined to the same time: whence it is evident that this has regard to the Church and spiritual trials. 3. The fifth Trumpet manifestly has regard to Antichrist and his revelation, as it is evident from a comparison of Revelation 8:13 and 9:4. 4. The principal scope of this Prophecy is to show the defection of the Church, accomplished by degrees, in the doctrine and worship of God, and at the same time, as an effect of that, a certain plague, spiritual, and also temporal, sent into the world; and, for their trial, unto the faithful themselves, particularly under Antichrist, for whose progress and increase these plagues prepare the way, either, by debilitating the Church, or, by shaking the Empire, as it is more clearly revealed in Revelation 11-14. However, it denotes not so much particular events and persons, as the general state of the Church and events of every kind. 5. The diverse states of the Church in the Empire are compared to diverse worlds, and her revolutions and corruptions to the changes in the world, although the Church alone, or religion, undergoes this mutation. Now, in this Book three worlds are mentioned as successively overturned through the three principal Prophecies, the Pagan under the six Seals, the Christian under the Trumpets, the Antichristian under the Vials. 6. There is the greatest similitude between the Trumpets and the Vials. According to both, the first is against the Earth; the second, against the Sea; the third, against Rivers; the fourth, against the Sun: the fifth Trumpet places Antichrist upon the Throne; the fifth Vial was poured out upon the Throne of the Beast: the sixth Trumpet releases the Angels near Euphrates; the sixth Vial dries up Euphrates. Whence it appears that by the same methods and stages procede both the ruin of Antichrist, and the liberation of the Church, from which the former sprung, but the latter was obscured. And therefore, just as the ruin of Antichrist with his world is manifestly noted through the Vials, so this world, overturned by the Trumpets, is to be understood of the visible Church, upon the ruins of which the Antichristian world was erected, and that under the Trumpets, as it is proven; for neither was that world able to be overturned before it was built up, nor to be built up, except after the Christian world both was constructed and began to fail. From these things it is evident, both, 1. that the defection of the Church, and the rise and revelation of Antichrist is the principal scope of the Trumpets; and, 2. the Earth, Mountains, Waters, etc., that there is some analogy to them in the Church. 7. The first four Trumpets do not trace the rise and revelation of Antichrist, which happens under the fifth Trumpet, which would create a great lacuna in this Prophecy; but rather the first calamities of the Church after the world was already made Christian, by which calamities the way was made for Antichrist, and the world was prepared by degrees to receive him. And for this reason, these Trumpets are distinguished from the three following, which contain the history of Antichrist revealed. From the things spoken, it is gathered, 1. that the Trumpets describe the state of the Church with the order of time and by succession, etc.: 2. that those Trumpets do not principally denote temporal mutations in the Empire, for punishment of the preceding persecutions, but the spiritual mutations and plagues in the visible Church; which are nevertheless expressed in terms of temporal judgments, just as also the altercations of the Church with Heretics are signified by expressions of war. For the Saints endure these evils, while the whole world celebrates triumph (Durham). 8. Of these Trumpets the first four are of more restricted and smaller plagues; inasmuch as from the healing of which, pressing upon the greatest part of the Western or Latin World, the Roman Bishop was thereafter going to be the head, at least over that World. With the images of these plagues rightly accommodated, let it be observed that the Roman Universe with the remaining Empires of the World are by the Holy Spirit tacitly likened to a World System, the parts of which are the Earth, Sea, Rivers, Heaven, Stars: with this reason, that the System of each Empire might have its own Earth, that is, a certain bottom and Foundation upon which the mass of the entire polity might lean; its own Sea, that is, the breadth and extension of it sovereignty; its own Rivers, that is, provincial magistrates and other administrators of authority, whose channels are their provinces; finally the Sun and other Stars in the heaven of Supreme power. Now, what is here and there inculcated concerning the Third part of the Trees, Sea, Rivers, Heaven, that I take of the territories of the Roman Empire, embracing in its own compass a third part of the World known in the time of John. It appears to be able to be proven from this, that afterwards in Revelation 12, that seven-headed, ten-horned Dragon (that is, the Pagan Roman Epire) is said to draw with his tail a third part of the Stars of Heaven and to cast them down upon the earth; that is, to subjugate to His own Empire a third part of the Princes and Rulers of the World (Mede’s Works 569). Others: The first four Trumpets (which, compared with the three following, are lesser Woes) describe the decline and wavering of the Church, and that through three hundred and twenty years, or approximately, from the time of Constantine the Great to the revelation of Antichrist. 9. What we said concerning the Seals, that also is applicable in the case of the Trumpets: the First Trumpet does not entirely cease and pass away, when the second begins, etc.; but all in a certain way are and operate at the same time, and the first in a certain way continues until the last; but each Trumpet has regard to its own matter, as far as rise and peak, or revelation, of the evil described in it (Durham). What the first three Trumpets describe is able to be gathered from the fire in each. Now, fire signifies most aptly sedition and rebellion. See James 3:5, 6. Now, among the Jews there were two sorts of men that were disturbing the State. Στασιάσται, seditious men, who were exciting rebellion against the Romans, and ζηλωταὶ/ zealots, who in the siege, or just before it, practiced every sort of cruelty against their own. Irritated by their seditions, the Romans inflicted the most grievous evils upon them under Albinus, Florus,[9] etc., which evils are here signified by the first four Trumpets. The final three Trumpets denote the extreme evils, which the Jews endured to the full in the siege (Hammond).


The seven angels, etc.: The angels are God’s ministers, by which he bringeth his counsels to pass in the world: they hearing the thunderings and voices, knew the time was come when they were to begin the execution of God’s judgments upon the earth; the execution of which was intrusted to them, and they are therefore set out (though they be always ready) after the manner of men, preparing themselves to execute what God had intrusted them with the execution of.

[1] Greek: καὶ εἴληφεν ὁ ἄγγελος τὸ λιβανωτόν, καὶ ἐγέμισεν αὐτὸ ἐκ τοῦ πυρὸς τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, καὶ ἔβαλεν εἰς τὴν γῆν· καὶ ἐγένοντο φωναὶ καὶ βρονταὶ καὶ ἀστραπαὶ καὶ σεισμός. [2] Greek: εἰς. [3] Hebrews 12:29. [4] It is believed among the Hebrews that Bath Kol is a heavenly voice attributed to the Holy Spirit, delivered without the mediation of a human prophet. [5] Flavius Josephus (37-93) was an eyewitness to the final siege of Jerusalem. Josephus’ value both to the historian and to the student of the history of the interpretation of the Scriptures is incalculable. [6] Eusebius (c. 267-338) was Bishop of Cæsarea, author of that famous Ecclesiastical History, and supporter of Constantine the Great. [7] Cornelius Tacitus (c. 56-c. 117) was a Roman historian. The information that he preserves about his era and its emperors is invaluable. [8] Greek: Καὶ οἱ ἑπτὰ ἄγγελοι οἱ ἔχοντες τὰς ἑπτὰ σάλπιγγας ἡτοίμασαν ἑαυτοὺς ἵνα σαλπίσωσι. [9] Albinus and Florus were the last two Roman procurators of Judea. Lucceius Albinus ruled Judea from 62 to 64 AD; and Gessius Florus ruled Judea from 64 to 66 AD. They were both heavy-handed oppressors of the Jews.

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