Read Revelation 8 at Bible Gateway.
We have seen that the first interval period between the sixth and seventh seals is a picture of conversion, describing a great ingathering of the saints. And indeed, even in most secular history books, the section beginning with Constantine is usually labeled something like The Triumph of Christianity, The Rise of the Christian Church, etc. And a great number of conversions to the Christian faith are what we do see playing out in history at this time.
When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. Rev 8:1-6
The Lamb opens the seventh seal. The event is of the seventh seal, is seven trumpet judgments. This is a powerful picture of sequential fulfillment, for obviously, the seven trumpets cannot begin until the sixth seal is finished.
But first we have a picture of the prayers of the saints, going up like incense before the throne of God. I said before, that this interpretation of Revelation is the traditional one held by the Church. The Christians living during the Roman Empire saw what was transpiring with their own eyes outside their doors, and understood it to be fulfillment of John’s vision. So as they saw the events which led to the downfall of Diocletian and the establishment of Constantine, they knew they were seeing the sixth seal; they knew that the seventh seal was next which would introduce more judgments.
So I believe the prayers of the saints are mentioned here, because the Christians would be and did intercede before the throne, knowing that the seven trumpet judgments were about to start. It is interesting that by the time the next interval is over, before the start of the seventh trumpet, there is no corresponding picture of intercession. By that time in history, however, the Christians no longer understood the historical nature of John’s vision, as we will see. As the seven angels prepare to sound, there is another earthquake, or another violent political, societal, cultural, and religious upheaval.
Remember where we are in history. The empire has declined dramatically, paganism has fallen, Christianity has triumphed, the seat of Roman authority has been removed to Constantinople, but Rome has not fallen yet. We know from history, that when Rome falls, a monumental earthquake does take place: empire is exchanged for anarchy, imperialism is exchanged for feudalism, civilization is exchanged for barbarism (called The Dark Ages in history books), and biblical Christianity is exchanged for counterfeit Roman Christianity. Truly a violent upheaval of all established earthly order.
I believe the next four trumpet judgments which are described in Rev 8, are designed to bring about the fall of Rome, to bring about this earthquake, and to execute judgment on the fourth terrible beast of iron.
Continued in revelation 8, the first trumpet