“And when the seal was broken there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”
The silence is in heaven, not on earth. This indicates a gathering or coming situation or condition, the calm before the storm (so-to-speak) or the prequel to events – a short time. Seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets. The trumpets, here as with any use of trumpets in the scriptures, herald events, or call forth forces. Another angel with golden censor prepares to offer incense, “with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.” The prayers of the saints (those early martyrs) are once again mentioned as the moving factor in the unfolding of the purpose of God; and this is also a notable example of the power of prayer.
The angel took fire from the altar and threw it to the earth. That signals the onset of the final part of the plan of God concerning both Israel and Rome. The fire cast to earth is likened to “noises, thundering, lightning, and an earthquake,” (can this be the horsemen, winds, trumpets, and plagues mentioned again?). Then the seven angels prepare to sound (v.6). The loosening of the seventh seal indicates events will now be heading to a conclusion. Something’s coming.
The first trumpet sounds. It heralds a plague: hail and fire mingled with blood, and one third of the trees and green grass burned up. A plague issued against the land, or simply indicating a spiritually troubled land. The spiritual plague is not limited in its domain. It seems to me that this refers to the conditions that resulted out of the decimation of the land of Judaea for nearly two years under the legions of Vespasian, in subjugating Israel beginning in 67 AD. What happens if all the grass and trees disappear? If everything is burned up? Answer: No food, no livestock, no grain no fruit. You had better get out as fast as you can, or you will surely die.
The second trumpet: “A great mountain burning with fire…thrown into the sea.” one third of the sea, its creatures, and ships destroyed. A plague issued against the sea or troubled sea? And a mountain typically identifies a religion. But, let’s ask: What happens if a giant fireball drops into a huge body of water? What’s the picture being painted for us? As noted above, these signs may refer to the advancement of the Romans and their gaining control of all elements providing life within the region of Judaea. More than likely, as with all the rest, they refer to continuing dearth and the rejection of God and the consequences coming out of those acts.
The third trumpet: “A great star from heaven fell.” This time it is the fresh waters that are struck. Wormwood is a bitter weed that is used in the Old Testament as a symbol of the effects of idolatry (see Deut. 29:18; Jere. 9:15, and 23:15). This is indicating more trouble; and as with the rest, is a spiritual sign indicating that trouble filters down to the basic needs level of life; and its root cause is idolatry and rejecting God. If the nasty stuff coming from the Gentiles falls into the water – does it poison the well, lake or stream? What happens when you have no fresh water, every source is fouled, and you cannot find anything to drink – what does that imply? Answer: You are doomed, and unless you get to a good source, you die.
The fourth trumpet: one third of the sun, moon and stars are struck. A plague issued warning that the end is coming soon. As in every other occurrence in prophetic writing: this means “it’s light’s out” (as Berry Kercheville has ably put it). You are doomed. It is getting darker and more foreboding every day. If all the lights go out, you will never find your way and you will die.
The point is: trouble is everywhere. No one is exempted, and you better get moving if you want to be safe. Nothing can stop it, once started. So, when you begin to see these things: you need to change what you are doing, and get going.
Again, the four plagues indicate conditions accompanying or underlying both the physical and the spiritual turmoil. The plagues affect every aspect of life. Nothing and no one gets a pass: spiritual difficulties abound on every side. Whether you agree with this assessment, it is still clear that the plagues are against those who are “not sealed” – those who have rejected God’s Word, and it doesn’t matter if you are Jew or Gentile — the result will be the same. This is clearly stated and should be remembered. God is trying to get the attention of those who are not His. Soon he will stop offering any more time to repent. God’s (spiritual) judgment is being metered to people by affecting everything surrounding them in their daily lives.
A fourth angel (in some versions – an eagle) appears to fly through the heavens pronouncing a woe to the inhabitants of earth for the three angels who have yet to sound.