Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
Someone recently asked me to explain why God uses seals, trumpets, and bowls as the symbols for the earth’s final judgments. Since no one had ever asked me that before, I found it intriguing and worthy of investigation. In my brief searching through both my books and online, I discovered that hardly anyone else had bothered to discuss it either. In fact, you are overwhelmed with what these judgments are, but hardly any discuss why these particular symbols are used. I was able to find some descriptions in Clarence Larkin’s book on the book of Revelation so I will lean some on his work. So here we go.
Books in ancient times came in the form of scrolls. It wasn’t until the time of Julius Caesar (circa 30BC) that books were put into different forms resembling what we come to think of as rectangular-shaped books we have today. However, this particular scroll (book) contains the Title Deed to the earth. It was the inheritance that Adam forfeited when he sinned against God. Adam had been given dominion over the earth (Gen 1:26, 28), but when he willingly disobeyed God, he forfeited that over to Satan (Gen. 3:17-19, Luke 4:5-6).
Thus, the sealed scroll represents the Title Deed to the earth that Adam lost, and God regained, and now in Revelation 5, will be opened by its rightful owner. This is why we see the angel ask, “Who is worthy to open the book and loose its seals?” As Revelation 5 goes on to show, only Jesus was worthy to do so. Jesus is both God and Man and accordingly, the only capable and worthy Kinsman Redeemer in all of existence (Lev. 25:23-34, Ruth 4:1-12). Regarding this worthiness, the great Clarence Larkin wonderfully points out,
In the Gospels four titles are given to Jesus. He is the Son of David; the Son of Abraham; the Son of Man; and the Son of God.
1. As the Son of David, He has title to the Throne of David.
2. As the Son of Abraham, He has title to the Land of Palestine, and all included in the Royal Grant to Abraham.
3. As the Son of Man, He has title to the Earth and the World.
4. As the Son of God, He is the Heir of All Things.
The Scroll has seven seals on it. As many have pointed out, the number seven represents completeness and perfection throughout the Bible. The Bible itself is broken into seven major divisions: the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels and Acts, the General Epistles, the Pauline Epistles, and the book of Revelation. The angel Gabriel gave Daniel God’s remaining prophetic timeline for the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27) as 70 weeks of seven years (or 490 years). The 69th Week ended with the Crucifixion of Christ, and the 70th week is still future since nothing historically corresponds with its fulfillment.
In the book of Revelation alone, the number seven is used 49 times (7x7). This includes only the explicit uses of seven and not the duplicates in the same verse. These groups of seven are churches, spirits, candlesticks, stars, lamps, seals, horns, eyes, angels, trumpets, thunders, thousand men, heads, crowns, plagues, vials (or bowls), mountains, and kings (Source).
Therefore, we can conclude that these seven seals, plus the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls (equaling 21 judgments, or 7 x 3) represent God’s perfect or complete series of judgments upon planet earth. What is hidden still, is what or how the Seven Thunders (Rev. 10:3-4) figure into the judgments.
The first four seals unleash what we commonly refer to as the Four Horsemen since these judgments come in the form of riders on different color horses. But all of the Seal Judgments seem to find a corresponding description in the Jesus’ Olivet Discourse found in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke). However, this discourse is not a strict timeline, as it seems to cover all of the overarching components of the 21 judgments.
Seal 1: White Horse (arrival of final world tyrant- the Antichrist)
Matthew 24:4-5 (false Christs)
Seal 2: Red Horse (peace is taken from the earth)
Matthew 24:6-7 (wars)
Seal 3: Black Horse (global famine and scarcity)
Seal 4: Pale Horse (1/4 of the earth dies)
Seal 5: The cry of the Martyrs
Seal 6: Cosmic disturbances, a great earthquake- The wrath of the Lamb recognized
Seal 7: Silence in Heaven for about half-hour (Heaven is never silent)
Nevertheless, the seventh of each judgment works to introduce the next series of judgments.
Trumpets are used for many things in the Bible. They were used as a call to war, a call to worship, for the convocation of the people, and to proclaim the festivals of the Year of Jubilee and the Feast of Tabernacles, and also for Judgments (Ex. 19:16. Amos 3:6. Joshua 6:13-16. Zeph. 1:14-16). These "Seven Angels" prepared themselves to sound. (Source)
Whereas most of the Seal Judgments are focused on both the geopolitical terraforming and culling of the global population, the Trumpet Judgments seem to focus initially on physically terraforming the earth. This may have not just been about judgment, but also channelizing, or limiting Satan’s options as time progresses forward. Thus, the severity of the judgments is increased and diversified in not just destroying man, but nature as well.
There is much confusion today for many who subscribe to either the Mid-Trib or Pre-Wrath Rapture positions who liken the Seventh Trumpet Judgment as the timing of the rapture (harpazo, catching up). The problem with this is there is nothing in Rev. 11:15-19 that speaks too, or addresses the catching up of believers, a translation from mortality to immortality, or a resurrection of the dead in the corresponding passages.
One must conclude that if the Church (ekklesia-called out assembly) are caught up at the last trump (1 Cor. 15:52), there must also have been a corresponding first trump of equal or like nature (if we are comparing apples to apples). It would make no sense to use the first trumpet blast of Joshua’s march around Jericho as being equal to the last trumpet spoken of in 1 Thess. 4:16. This has the same inequality as comparing 1 Cor. 15:52 Rapture, with the 7th Trumpet Judgment. These are two very different things.
Thus, if the purpose of the Rapture of the Church is the ingathering of all believers from the first Pentecost after Christ’s ascension until today (both alive and dead), to meet the Lord in the air, then we must find a corresponding first gathering of a called-out assembly.
The first mention of a trumpet blast in Scripture is found in Exodus 19:16-20, when the Israelites were gathered together for the first time as a nation at the foot of Mount Sinai. The last trumpet blast, correspondingly, gathers the Church of all ages together for the first time to meet the Lord in the air.
Note the similarities:
The first trumpet-
Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. 19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice. 20 Then the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Exodus 19:16-20 (Emphasis mine)
The last trumpet-
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16-17
In both passages-
· A trumpet blasts
· The Lord descends
· Man goes up
I believe the ‘third-day reference is equally compelling, both as symbolism pointing to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, as well as to God’s prophetic overview in dealing with the nation of Israel in Hosea 6:1-3 passage. Nevertheless, we see the judgments increasing both in scope and severity.
Trumpet 1: 1/3 vegetation struck and consumed by fire
Trumpet 2: 1/3 of the seas struck and turned to blood
Trumpet 3: 1/3 of freshwaters are struck and made bitter (Wormwood)
Trumpet 4: 1/3 of heavens struck
Trumpet 5: Demonic Locusts from bottomless pit torment mankind for five months
Trumpet 6: Angels from the Euphrates released- kill 1/3 of mankind
~Seven thunders proclaimed- not written down
Trumpet 7: Kingdoms proclaimed
Why Bowls (Vials)?
The last series of seven judgments are the full measure of God’s wrath being poured out on increasingly recalcitrant mankind. These judgments must either be of short duration, or they occur right before the very end since some are so severe mankind could not long survive. Why does God use bowls instead of say, barrels or buckets? Like the seals and the trumpets, bowls are of those most basic of human tools common throughout all of man’s epochs.
There has always been some form of seal to cover the contents of a parchment since there have been either leather or papyrus parchments. There has always been some form of metal horn (Gen. 4:21-22) used to announce and to make music. Similarly, the bowl or vial is one of those most basic of human tools common to every age, culture, and nation. This is also why God doesn’t use an iPad, an electric keyboard, and a blender for these symbols, as they would have only made sense in this last generation. Everyone can picture a bowl overflowing, and here, we get a glimpse of God’s wrath overflowing from these bowls to pour out upon the earth.
Bowl 1: Loathsome soars on those who bear the mark of the beast
Bowl 2: The rest of the seas turns to blood
Bowl 3: All freshwater sources turn to blood
Bowl 4: Men are scorched by the sun and its heat
Bowl 5: Painful darkness descends upon the Beast’s kingdom
Bowl 6: The Euphrates River dries up, opening the way for the kings of the east to join in on Armageddon
Bowl 7: The greatest earthquake in history utterly shakes the earth and drastically alters earth’s geography; Jerusalem is divided into three parts; every island disappears into the seas of blood; 100lb hailstones pummel the earth
That is the basic overview of why God uses the seal, trumpet, and bowl to convey His great displeasure and wrath with the wickedness of a fallen creation. Glory be to God that we (the Church) will not be here to experience it. Jesus stated, the final seven years will be the worst period of time in all of human history and if He didn’t personally intervene, there would be no flesh left to save.
Even so, Maranatha!