Peeling the Onion: Revelation 8

This is drama, not anticlimax –

The 7th seal is opened and:


If you’ve been imagining that ‘theophany’ in heaven,

That spectacle, crowded with figures and choruses –

Then silence is shocking – foreboding


Nothing happens –

Or rather, nothing happens yet

Then 7 angels,

already before God,

get 7 trumpets

And another angel,

by the altar,

with a gold censer

gets lots of incense


Generally, we don’t associate incense and prayer

But in the wider church over time and space, we do.

‘Let our prayers rise to you like incense,

the lifting up of our prayers

as a morning sacrifice’

That was a line from a morning Lutheran office,

I sang for a few years daily, in the 1980’s


Imagine the prayers of the church,

Rising like the smoke, with the smoke, of incense

Remember the martyrs, under this altar, praying along


Now, break the thrall with violent action:

The angel with the censer takes fire from the altar,

Ignites the incense, and throws it down on earth –

Thunder and lightning, volcanic destruction!


Here again, we get the first 4 of a set of 7,

Like the first 4 seals announced by the beasts and horsemen

This time, and angel blows a trumpet,

And adds to the incense shower:



Hail, fire, and blood shower down

One-third of earth, trees, and grass

Burned up



Fiery mountain thrown in the sea

Water turned to blood

One-third of sea-creatures dead,

One-third of ships destroyed



Burning star, Wormwod, fallen to earth

One-third of rivers and springs fouled

Many dying from non-potable, bitter, wormwood water



One-third of sun, moon, and stars extinguished

Gloomy darkness, night and day


And an eagle, flying in mid-heaven, cries




The next 3 will be worse!


We profess to hate ‘fire and brimstone’

Yet we excel at it,

Canadian munitions are exported to the world –

We just buried a soldier who set land-mines in Korea

And cleared them in Cyprus

We still won’t sign a treaty banning them


We bombed Germany, including fire-bombing Dresden,

Contributed to Manhattan Project, uranium for bombs,

We excelled at artillery work, too…

and JTF2 snipers set records


It is all done in our name –

Do we deny a bit of ‘schadenfreude’, safely distant?

Does no evil call for obliteration?


The culmination of woe

From the ‘4 horsemen’

Leave wounded warriors,

Razed battlefields,

Economic crises,

Epidemic death


The trumpets announce more woe:

Escalation, or retribution?

One-third suggests selective action,

Not total annihilation.


Do troops coming home in our generation,

From apocalyptic experience to blithe denial,

Find that dissonance untenable?

Death rates higher at home than in the field suggest so.


There’s my 500 word quota

on a day of brutal imagery


1st 4 of 7 Angels’ Trumpets 

1 The Lamb then broke the seventh seal, and there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 

2 Next I saw seven trumpets being given to the seven angels who stand in the presence of God. 

3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. A large quantity of incense was given to him to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that stood in front of the throne; 

4 and so from the angel's hand the smoke of the incense went up in the presence of God and with it the prayers of the saints. 

5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it from the fire of the altar, which he then hurled down onto the earth; immediately there came peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, and the earth shook. 

6 The seven angels that had the seven trumpets now made ready to sound them. 

7 The first blew his trumpet and, with that, hail and fire, mixed with blood, were hurled on the earth: a third of the earth was burnt up, and a third of all trees, and every blade of grass was burnt. 

8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and it was as though a great mountain blazing with fire was hurled into the sea: a third of the sea turned into blood, 

9 a third of all the living things in the sea were killed, and a third of all ships were destroyed.

10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a huge star fell from the sky, burning like a ball of fire, and it fell on a third of all rivers and on the springs of water; 

11 this was the star called Wormwood, and a third of all water turned to wormwood, so that many people died; the water had become so bitter. 

12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were blasted, so that the light went out of a third of them and the day lost a third of its illumination, and likewise the night. 

13 In my vision, I heard an eagle, calling aloud as it flew high overhead, 'Disaster, disaster, disaster, on all the people on earth at the sound of the other three trumpets which the three angels have yet to blow!' 

7th Seal, 1st 4 of 7 Angels’ Trumpets 

1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. 

2And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 

3 Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. 

4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 

5Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. 

6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them. 

7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. 

8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea. 

9A third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 

10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 

11The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many died from the water, because it was made bitter. 

12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light was darkened; a third of the day was kept from shining, and likewise the night. 

13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew in mid-heaven, ‘Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, at the blasts