Session 10

Revelation Study – Session 10

 

Revelation is a drama presented in seven acts.  Except for the first and the last act, each of the seven acts has seven parts.  In this session we come to the end of the second act in the drama (the breaking of the seven seals) and the beginning the third act (the sounding of the seven trumpets).  The scene standing behind this great drama is the perfect Lamb of God taking the book of God’s judgments from the right hand of God and breaking the seals on the book to reveal God’s judgments on His enemies and the enemies of His people.  The main purpose of Revelation was to give assurance to the suffering Christians of the 1st century and to Christians of every century that God has not forgotten or abandoned them.

 

In chapter 6 saw opening of the first six seals the great judgments of God revealed.  Chapter 6 ends with a question of despair: “Who is able to stand?”  Chapter 7 is a brief interlude that answers that question.  In chapter 7 are two visions – God’s people in this world and the next world.  That’s who will stand!  Now in chapter 8 the seventh seal is broken.  It’s a transitory seal, bridging gap between seven seals of chapter 6 and seven trumpets of chapters 8 & 9.  The seventh seal introduces the seven trumpets, which in turn reveal more to us about God’s judgments in human history. 

 

When this seventh seal was opened John saw three things.

1.    A period of silence in heaven

When you were a child – light fuse of a firecracker – watch it burn down out of sight – stand in nervous anticipation waiting the explosion – when it comes, no matter how prepared you think you are – you jump!  Something of the way John must have felt!  The first six seals accompanied by much noise:

Seals 1-4 – thunderous voice saying “come”

Seal 5  - Cries of those martyred for Christ

Seal 6  - Sounds of a great earthquake, sky splitting, mountains & islands moving

However, the seventh seal was opened, and all of heaven became deathly quiet for approximately half an hour.  What is the significance of this period of silence?  No one knows for sure.  Several ideas:

(1)   Symbolic of delayed judgment – Judgment is coming; it is sure; it is certain; but it will come in God’s own time (same idea brought out in 7:1-3)

(2)   A period of calm before the storm – Some see the purpose of this silence as magnifying the intensity and terror of judgment

(3)   A literary device for dramatic impact – John had already seen the instruments, demands, terror, and provision for judgment.  Now even the hosts of heaven are silent, anxiously awaiting to see what’s next

(4)   An indication that God is listening to His people – Barclay – “The prayers of the saints are just about to go up to God; and it may be that the idea in that everything in heaven halts so that the prayers of the saints may be heard… Here, indeed, is a wonderful thought.  Even the music of heaven, even the thunder of revelation is stilled, that God’s ear may catch the whispered prayer of the humblest of His praying and trusting people.”

While it may appear to be a copout, I agree with Herschel Hobbs when he says there is truth in all these positions.  Maybe the best view is a combination of them all.  Certainly this period of silence sets the stage for what is to follow.

 

2.      Seven angels taking seven trumpets

That the seven angels were standing before (or in the presence of) God.  Tells two things about them:

(1)   Enjoyed a special privilege – In oriental court only most favored servants were allowed to be in the presence of the king continuously

(2)   Readiness for service – They were constantly waiting the commands of the king

This is a reminder of our standing before God.  We have special relationship (privilege) but the purpose of that relationship is service to the King!

 

The angels were each given a trumpet.  In both O.T. & N.T. the trumpet is always the symbol of God’s intervention in history.  A trumpet blast can mean at least three things and each of them are indicative of the kinds of missions on which God may send His people in the world today.

(1)   It can sound an alarm – God is always calling His servants to warn the world of the dangers of sin

(2)   It can announce the arrival of royalty - We are the heralds of God’s breaking into history through His son.

(3)   It can be a summons to battle – God’s people are continually summoned to join the battle between truth/falsehood, light/dark, forces of god/forces of evil

3.   An angel with a censer burning incense to God

This scene is designed to give assurance to suffering Christians that their prayers are heard by God.   The prayers of the saints rise as an incense to God.  Psalm 141:2 – “May my prayer be counted as incense before Thee; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.”  There are two beautiful truths about prayer in this scene want you to see:

(1)   Prayer is like a sacrifice to God

                                                                        i.      The picture of prayer rising to God surrounded with the perfume of incense is a reminder that it is the greatest sacrifice we can offer.

                                                                      ii.      We have nothing else to offer!  Even though God wants us to give material possessions, that’s not so much for God’s sake (He already owns the world) as ours!

                                                                    iii.      The very best that we can give God is ourselves humbled before Him in prayer!

                                                                    iv.      Psalm 51:16-17 – “For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it.  Thou art not pleased with burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.”  Prayer is a sacrifice!!

 

(2)   Prayer gets results

                                                                        i.      Angel took coals from the altar and threw them to earth.  The result was thunder, lighting, and earthquake – the signs of judgment.

                                                                      ii.      Idea is the prayers of the saints brought vengeance and destruction on those who persecuted, mistreated them, and were the enemies of God and His people

Double picture of prayer – rising like incense to God/ unleashing the vengeance of God on those who persecute God’s people…

 

It’s interesting that each of the three things John saw in this vision can have a double meaning.

Silence

(1)           Impending doom and judgment

(2)           God’s complete control of universe

Trumpets

(1)          Announcement of terror/invasion

(2)          Announcement of victory/joy

Prayer Being Answered

(1)          Expression of God’s vengeance

(2)          Expression of God’s trustworthiness to answer

Which meaning we see depends on our relationship with God.  If we relate to Him in faith those pictures become scenes of hope.  If we relate to Him in fear these become scenes of judgment

 

Beginning with verse 7, one by one the angels sound their trumpets and more incredible scenes parade across the stage of this great drama.  In his classic work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,  Edward Gibbon points out that three great things combined to overthrow the Roman Empire:  natural disaster, internal rottenness, and external invasion.  Each of those things are paraded across the stage of this drama as the trumpets are blown:

  • Trumpets 1-4 – God’s judgment through natural disaster…
  • Trumpet 5 – God’s judgment through internal rottenness…
  • Trumpet 6 – God’s judgment through external invasion…
  • Trumpet 7 – Transition to the next series of signs…

 

I think the first four trumpets are designed to remind us that God sometimes warns and judges the world through nature.  Ancient man divided the world of nature into four categories – land, sea, fresh waters, heavenly bodies.  In this vision each of these four division of nature become the objects of judgments and warnings.  Ray Summers,  “This should not be looked upon as a prediction of literal events which are to take place and destroy one third of everything.  It is simply a picture of God’s warning judgments sent upon wicked men.”  Those who take a strong futurist view of Revelation would disagree with that.  They see in these trumpets future events that occur during the tribulation period when they say the church is no longer in the world.  Such an interpretation, while interesting, makes all this meaningless to the Christians in John’s day to whom this book was sent.  As go through the first four trumpets, will attempt to share briefly what futurist see in the event and what those who approach Revelation from historical background perspective see in the event.

(1)   First Trumpet (8:7)

·         Historical background – Represents God’s judgment on the land, vegetation, humanity’s main source of livelihood in Rome and elsewhere…in other biblical passages:

“hail” – sudden judgment; unexpected

“fire” – wrath of God

“blood” – death, both spiritual and physical

Image seems to be drawn from the plague of hail in Exodus 9:23-26…

·         Futurist – Nuclear war…fire raining from heaven…much of earth destroyed…

 

(2)   Second Trumpet (8:8-9)

·         Historical background – Volcanic eruption which cast a large blazing mountain in the sea, turning 1/3 to blood, killing 1/3 creatures, sinking 1/3 ships (could identify because of eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD).  Both fishing and shipping were vital parts of Rome’s economy.  This signals God’s judgment on another aspect of nature – the sea…seems be drawn at least in part from plague in Exodus 7:20-24 where Nile River is turned to blood…

·         Futurist – Hal Lindsey sees nuclear attack aimed at large naval armada which destroys vast amounts of marine life…

 

(3)   Third Trumpet – Giant star (perhaps a meteor) fell from heaven on a third of the fresh waters.  It was called “wormwood”, a bitter drug typifying divine judgment.  Those who drank the water made bitter by the poisonous star died. 

·         Historical background - Symbolizes God’s judgment on and through another aspect of nature – fresh water…brings to mind the first of the Egyptian plagues in Exodus 7…

·         Futurist – Hal Lindsey contends this caused by some kind of nuclear weapon (dirty bomb?) that is used purposefully to contaminate water supplies…

(4)   Fourth Trumpet – A third of all the heavenly luminary bodies are darkened…

·         Historical Background - Signals God’s judgment on and through the fourth aspect of nature – heavenly bodies…brings to mind the plague of darkness on Egypt in Exodus 10…

·         Futurist – Hal Lindsey speculates caused by light reduction caused by particles in air left from nuclear holocaust…

 

All of these trumpets picture natural calamity as one of the means God uses as an agent of destruction against His enemies.  Certainly was true in the case of Rome.  Want to share brief passage from Ray Summer’s book, Worthy is the Lamb…(read from pages 156-157)

 

That’s what these first four trumpets meant to the first century readers.  But what can they mean to us?  Two points of application

 

·         God is a God of mercy as well as judgment

These trumpets are certainly reminders that human wickedness does not go unnoticed in heaven.  God has His own way/time of dealing with it.  However, underlying all of that is the idea that God would rather forgive than judge, show mercy than judgment.  In each case only a third is affected – vegetation, sea, fresh water, heavenly bodies.  This is a symbol that this judgment is not complete.  God is still giving people a chance to turn to Him in repentance and faith.  That’s a basic theme throughout the Bible.  God would much rather love than condemn.  God would much rather accept men than to reject men.  That’s what II Peter 3:9-10 says.  “The Lord is … patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

 

·         Natural Disasters should remind all people that God has the power to judge

Whenever we hear of earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes should remind us of the power and scope of God’s judgment.  This kind of warning available to all people – regardless of status, education, location.  Paul said it this way in Romans 1:  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

 

Chapter 8 ends in rather strange way – eagle flying through heaven pronouncing threefold woe on those “who dwell on the earth”…eagles were consider omens of danger to ancient people…the word ”dwell” carries idea of being settled…next trumpets are directed, not toward nature, but toward people… directed specifically toward those who have forgotten the temporary, transitory nature of this world.  Their hopes, dreams, plans, and thoughts centered on earth.  They had lost their heavenly vision.

 

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