Revelation 8 takes us to the opening of the seventh seal. Most of the entire book of Revelation is contained in the Seventh seal. The information given in the 7th seal is given in the form of seven trumpets, symbolizing seven announcements, all concerning the church and its persecuting enemy.
The First Trumpet(Rev. 8: 7)
The first trumpet announcement assumes the form of a terrible thunderstorm, based on one of judgments Moses brought on the Egyptians. Whoever this enemy is, God looks on them as He did Egypt who persecuted God's Old Testament church. . All the plagues in chapters 8,9 are based on the plagues that fell on Egypt for persecuting the Old Testament Church. As used in this chapter, plagues are brought on the enemy of the New Testament church, namely the Imperial Roman empire. This necessarily implies that God would bring some judgment on the enemies of the New Testament church, most likely the Pagan Roman Empire for the persecutions of the early Christians.
.The Pulpit Commentary on the first Trumpet.
“It is possible that John intended first to set forth the judgments which were to descend on those powers which, at the time, were pressing so heavily on Christians, and among which the Roman Empire held the prominent place.” I think this would put the application of the first trumpet somewhere between 100 and 500 A.D.
John Hinds Commentary
“Any devastating, withering or destroying power that came against Rome would fulfill the signification of these words. John saw the hail and fire mingled with blood, the whole scene representing destructive warfare, bringing dreadful punishment and loss of life to the empire. The four destructive powers to be let loose at the sounding of the first four trumpets between 396 A.D. and the end of the Roman Empire, 476 A.D.”
B. W. Johnson's Commentary
“The terms indicate desolation by some kind of judgments. The scene of the desolation is the earth or the Roman Empire in John's use of the term...The scorched and blasted land indicates the devastations of destroying armies. The language implies a terrible destruction descending upon a third part of the world known to John.”
The Second Trumpet in verses 8,9 describes a volcanic mountain thrown into the sea. Jeremiah 51:25 gives a somewhat similar description of the Babylonian army that destroyed Jerusalem. God said, “Behold I am against you, O destroying mountain who destroys all the earth, says the LORD. And I will stretch out My hand against you, roll you down from the rocks, and make you a burnt mountain.”
The Pulpit Commentary:
“The vision may be said generally to typify great trouble and commotion. We may therefore conclude that a judgment of great magnitude and force is foretold. It is possible that it points to the overthrow of Rome by the Gothic power.” It goes on to say that the reference to the “third part of fish dying and ships destroyed, “ means that a large part of the Roman empire, but not all or the largest is signified. Two commentators, Elliot and Wordsworth, both think that the destruction of Roman ships is foretold. Rome would suffer a great maritime disaster. In early times ships were instruments of commerce and luxury. The Roman navy was to be destroyed.
“If a literal volcanic mountain were cast into the sea, the natural result would be that fish and other sea animals would be killed and ships would be destroyed. While John saw all this in a vision, it must signify something else. The burning of ships would indicate the destruction of maritime commerce and national protection. The whole scene is one of carnage, bloodshed, and destruction. With the destruction of ships would go the lives of those who manned them.”
The placing of this destruction on the sea instead of the land may indicate that the attack on Rome would come from the sea, and battle would be in waters near that part of the empire. This would put the events symbolized between 385 A.D and 476 A.D., the accepted date for the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A..D. God brought the Roman empire down in answer to the prayers of Christians. This history possibly records the loss of a great sea battle by Romans. The significant thing here is that the attack upon the Roman Empire was from the sea. It is suggested that God possibly brought these judgments on the Roman Empire for the unmerciful persecution of Christians from 60 A.D. to 325 A.D. I agree with those who think this is be best thinking on this chapter.
The judgments of God continue against the Roman empire as the third trumpet sounded and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch and fell on the third part of the rivers and springs of waters. No change in the interpretation and application takes place. I agree with those who apply this to the destruction of Pagan Rome and symbolically predicts some special incident which will affect the Romans unfavorably. Some think a “star” in symbolical language denotes some great leader and conqueror. Such a leader arose between 433 A.D. and 453 A.D. who played an important part in the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Edward Gibbon, the historian, says, “In the reign of Attila, the Huns again became the terror of he world.” He adds that Atilla, “alternately insulted and invaded the East and the west and urged the rapid downfall of the Roman Empire.” One of the pluses for this interpretation is that if it is not the correct meaning of the symbols, it is a historically correct account of history. Any way it goes you are learning true history. These events most certainly helped bring the Roman Empire to an end.
The fourth trumpet sounded and a third part of the sun was struck, a third of the moons, and a third of the stars. No change in the general drama takes place, and this trumpet announces some more terrible calamities that would happen to people in a certain part of the Roman Empire. This is symbolical language and may refer to the turmoil, confusion and disturbance caused by the shake-up among the leaders of the Roman Empire and the fear and dismay when the German barbarians conquered the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. This is not an unreasonable or far-out interpretation for it agrees with the words of John that some of the things in this book were “shortly to come to pass.” The events just described did shortly come to pass, and these particular events had a great impact on the church of the living God. John said of certain historical events in this book, “Keep those things which are written in it, for the time is near.” The time was near for the Romans to be punished for the disgraceful persecution of Christians for the first 300 years of church history. This is what actually happened whether or not we have discovered the correct interpretation of Revelation 8 and 9. It is a far better approach to these chapters than any of the other interpretations.
E.M. Zerr's Commentary, Page 312
“It should be remembered through verse 12 that the plagues symbolized represent the reverses that came upon the Roman Empire which finally resulted in the downfall of the government.” I agree with this writer. This interpretation deserves study and consideration by all teachers of God's word.