PART 4: COVENANT SANCTIONS – The Seven Trumpets (Revelation 8-14)

David Chilton

Narrated By: Daniel Sorenson
Book: The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of The Book of Revelation


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Chapter Text


The fourth section of the standard treaty document dealt with the sanctions (curses and blessings) of the covenant (cf. Deut. 27:1-30:20).[1] In Deuteronomy, these sanctions are set forth in the context of a ratification ceremony, in which the Covenant between God and the people is renewed. Moses instructed the people to divide into two groups, six tribes on Mount Gerizim (the symbol of blessing) and six at an altar built on Mount Ebal (the symbol of cursing). The congregation was to take a solemn oath, repeating Amen as the Levites repeated the curses of the Covenant, calling down those curses upon themselves if they should ever forsake the law (Deut. 27:1-26). Moses made it clear that this Covenant oath involved not only the people who swore to it, with their wives, children, and servants, but also with the generations to come (Deut. 29:10-15).

Deuteronomy 28 is practically the paradigmatic blessing/curse section of the entire Bible. The blessings for obedience are listed in verses 1-14, and the curses for disobedience are enumerated (in more detail) in verses 15-68. The Jewish War by Josephus reads almost like a commentary on this passage, for the Great Tribulation culminating in the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the subsequent scattering of the Jews throughout the earth was the definitive fulfillment of its curses. When the Jewish mob was screaming for Jesus to be crucified, they invoked the woes of this chapter: “All the people answered and said, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!'” (Matt. 27:25). When the days of vengeance finally came to that generation, they were cursed in every aspect of life (Deut. 28:15-19); smitten with pestilence of every sort (Deut. 28:20-26); visited with plague, violence, and oppression (Deut. 28:27-37); struck by poor harvests, economic reversals, and the loss of their children (Deut. 28:38-48); besieged by enemies and starved into cannibalistic practices (Deut. 28:49-57); enslaved and scattered throughout the nations of the world, living in fear and despair night and day (Deut. 28:58-68).

Moses warned that the Land of Israel would become a desolation if the people forsook the Covenant; like Sodom and Gomorrah, a monument to the judgment of God. “Now the generation to come, your sons who rise up after you and the foreigner who comes from a distant land, when they see the plagues of the Land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it, will say, ‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’

“And all the nations shall say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this Land? Why this great outburst of anger?’ Then men shall say, ‘Because they forsook the Covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. And they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that Land, to bring upon it every curse that is written in this book; and the LORD uprooted them from their Land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land, as it is this day’ ” (Deut. 29:22-28).

The Seven Trumpets of Revelation announce that this judgment is about to be poured out upon Israel for her rejection of Christ. Throughout this section flies the Eagle-cherub with his cry of Woe, a reminder of the conquering nation warned of in Deuteronomy 28:49. The Eagle is a Biblical symbol of both Covenant blessing (cf. Ex. 19:4; Deut. 32:11) and Covenant curse (cf. Jer. 4:13; Hab. 1:8). Like the opening of Hosea’s Sanctions/Covenant Ratification section (Hos. 8:1), the Eagle in Revelation is connected with the blowing of Trumpets signaling disaster; yet the Eagle brings salvation as well to the faithful of the covenant (cf. Rev. 12:14).

As in Deuteronomy, this section of Revelation shows us two mountains: the Mount of Cursing in Chapter 8, which is ignited with coals from the altar and thrown into the Abyss; and the Mount of Blessing in Chapter 14, Mount Zion, where the Lamb meets with His army of 144,000, the Remnant from the Land of Israel. Deuteronomy 30:1-10 promises an ultimate restoration of the people, when God would truly circumcise their hearts, and when He would again abundantly bless them in every area of life. Kline comments: “As the development of this theme in the prophets shows, the renewal and restoration which Moses foretells is that accomplished by Christ in the New Covenant. The prophecy is not narrowly concerned with ethnic Jews but with the covenant community, here concretely denoted in its Old Testament identity as Israel. Within the sphere of the New Covenant, however, the wall of ethnic distinctions disappears. Accordingly, the Old Testament figure used here of exiled Israelites being regathered to Yahweh in Jerusalem (v. 3b, 4; cf. 28:64)

finds its chief fulfillment in the universal New Testament gathering of sinners out of the human race, exiled from Paradise, back to the Lord Christ enthroned in the heavenly Jerusalem.”[2]

Thus, the central image of this section of Revelation is a Covenant ratification ceremony (Chapter 10), in which the Angel of the Covenant stands on the Sea and on the Land, lifting His right hand to heaven, swearing an oath and proclaiming the coming of the New Covenant, the inauguration of a new administration of the world under “the Lord and His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).

[1] See Meredith G. Kline, Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), pp. 121-34; cf. Ray R. Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987).

[2] Kline, pp. 132f.