This is the sixth in the series of judgements that we call the 7 trumpets. The trumpet is the loud musical instrument that an angel (special servant of God) sounds at the start of each of these judgements.
Most of these 7 judgements are not against everything; they only affect a part of everything - a third part. So, the first judgement was against a third part of the earth (8:7). After that, there were judgements against a third of the sea, then the water supplies, then the sky (8:8-12).
Then there was a different type of punishment. After the fifth trumpet, people suffered but they did not die (verses 5-6). Even after the sixth trumpet, only a third of the people die. Evil angels (angels who have chosen to serve the devil) are responsible for their deaths, which happen during a terrible battle.
Those people do not die because they are more wicked than other people. At that time, all the people will be extremely wicked (verses 20-21). They all deserve to die, but God does not permit their deaths yet.
The reason is that God is very kind. Perhaps, even yet, some of them may turn to him. Even during this terrible time, he will send his people to speak his message (11:3). God delays his final judgement so that people have one more opportunity to turn to him.
In that way, the order of these judgements is like the plagues (terrible troubles) in Egypt (Exodus chapters 7 to 11). There were 10 plagues; the last one brought death to every house in Egypt. God wanted Egypt’s rulers to change their minds first, so that they would not suffer that last plague. However, they refused to turn to God. In the same way, the people of the world will refuse to do that at the time of the 7 trumpets.
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© 2016, Keith Simons.