The image of seven angels blowing trumpets in Revelation 8-11 echoes the basic message of the opening of the seals seen in chapters 4-7 – God’s judgement against all unrighteousness. Like the brief pause between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals when John saw those who are saved being “marked” to protect them against the coming judgement, the “break” between the sixth and seventh trumpets heightens the readers’ anticipation – “What will happen next?” During this break, John hears a lion’s roar and the sound of seven “thunders,” which suggests that whatever is about to come will be something unhappy for those under judgement. UNlike the earlier interlude, this one emphasizes the coexistence of loyalty by and persecution of the saints.
During this break, John is given a small scroll/ book to eat (10:10), which tastes sweet but upsets his stomach, and is told to measure the inner part of the temple, but not the outer (Gentile) area. This might at first glance suggest God’s judgement against national Israel (before He judges all other people), but in the context of God caring for Christians in the face of persecution it more likely shows the distinction between the church (God’s temple, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 & 6:19) and the world. In chapter 11 the deaths of the Lord’s two witnesses after their faithful testimony might make it appear that Satan’s power has overcome the Lord’s, but their resurrection gives the reader assurance that God’s influence (and His faithful ones) will ultimately survive no matter how viciously it is opposed.
The sounding of the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15-19 presents a “bird’s eye view” of the rest of the book. Unlike the seven seals or the six previous trumpets, this trumpet does not foretell dire, terrible events; instead, it heralds an outburst of praise by a multitude of heavenly voices, along with the 24 elders who fall down before God to worship Him. This passage looks forward to the final day of judgement, when the “world” is reclaimed by God so that He can judge it, the dead are judged and rewarded according to their deeds, and the “temple” of God is now seen in His actual presence (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 6:16, & Ephesians 2:20-21).
Up to this point the Revelation has mainly depicted the conflict between the church and the world/society: From this point onward, the imagery shifts to the “larger” picture of the conflict between Christ and Satan. The Holy Spirit is thus showing us two different perspectives of the same conflict – the earthly view (ours), and the heavenly!
The fact that what John sees now moves from the temporal/earthly to the eternal/spiritual realm shows us that this book is NOT meant to be read as a “calendar” so we can pinpoint the judgement day, or as a chronological “roadmap” of events for us to recognize that would allow us to calculate its arrival (which is exactly the error many people make, in attempting to understand the revelation). By “zooming out” here so that we can see the conflict between heaven and hell from God’s perspective, John is implicitly reminding us that the “last days” began when Jesus arose from the grave (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2), and that they will conclude with judgement (John 12:48).