Last sermon we look at six of the seven seals. The seals represent the tools which the Lamb uses to judge His and His peoples enemies. When we saw the sixth seal we saw the beginning of the end. The wrath of the Lamb was going to have one final display. The cosmic order as we know it was being turned around. There was a great earthquake, the sky was being rolled up like a scroll. The sun became black, and the full moon became like blood.
All people where are enemies of Jesus, all people small and great, ran to the hills and the mountains. It was so bad they cried for the rocks to fall on them and they ask the question who can stand the wrath of the One who sits upon the throne and the wrath of the Lamb.
Chapter seven was a vision of two multitudes. First we see the 144,000 who were sealed with the seal of God and then we see a great multitude worshiping before the throne. Both of these people, these multitudes, represent the church. This is meant to comfort the church when throughout its history it faces great tribulation.
And so we come to chapter 8. In verse 6 of chapter 8 we have yet another scene change. The camera angle is now going to change and look at the same story but now from a different angle. We now see seven angels who are given seven trumpets and as the angles blow their respective trumpets more wrath is unleashed. Here is where the rubber meets the road. If Revelation is meant to be taken chronologically then these trumpets will seem out of place. But if we look at Revelation from the standpoint of each section covers the same time, and as each section progresses the picture becomes fuller in each section.
In chapters 4-7 we said we were looking at the section from a heavenly perspective. This was to get our minds squarely focused on the one upon the throne and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Now in chapters 8-11 we still have that same focus but we will see things from the perspective of the church and the unbeliever. In other words the :churched” and the “unchurched”.
- THE SEVENTH SEAL 8:1-5
Chapter 8 begins with the opening of the seventh seal. We are still in heaven at this point which is where we were when we left chapter 7. When the seventh seal is opened there is silence in heaven for about an half an hour. For 30 minutes there is complete silence. Perhaps it was so silent you could hear a pin drop. Why the silence? Many have speculated but the silence seems to be a response to the wrath that has happened already in this vision and the wrath that is to be unleashed in the seven trumpets. The wrath of God when you think about it is a weighty thing. It is no light subject. When you think about the wrath that is coming it can and probably should leave you silent.
The vision continues. In verse 2 John sees seven angels who stand before God, and each of them were given a trumpet. We should pause here for one moment so we do not miss something small but very crucial to this whole section. Notice the angels were given the trumpets. It was not of their own accord that they had the trumpets. Someone from the outside gave them to them. It is safe to say that these were given to them by the One who sits upon the throne. Here is what we need to learn. In this section we will see over and over that to them authority or power was given. All of what we see, including the angels being given the seven trumpets, have the One who sits upon the throne behind it. The sovereign one is still in control and He is using what we see in the following trumpets to serve His purposes to bring His wrath on those who are His and the Lamb’s enemies.
Another angel now appears and stands at the altar with a golden censer. He was given incense to offer with the prayers of the saints. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints rose before God Almighty, from the hand of the angel. The angel then takes the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it to the earth and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. What in the world is going on here. Notice the angel took the fire from the altar from which the prayers of the saints rose. The angel throwing the censer filled with fire to the earth show that what follows is wrath from heaven, which is an answer to the prayers of the saints.
- THE FIRST FOUR TRUMPETS: 8:6-13
With the angel throwing the censer to the earth the first trumpet is now ready to be sounded. The first angel blew his trumpet and there followed hail, and fire mixed with blood. These were thrown upon the earth. The result of this was that a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees, and all green grass was burned up. In some ways these correlate as well with the seven seals. Remember the first seal represented conquest. One technique of war in the first century was to literally smoke people out. Towns would be set on fire, homes would be burned, in order to conquer a people.
The second angel now blows his trumpet and something like a great mountain, burning with fire was thrown into the sea, this is not a literal mountain, but something like a great mountain. The result of this is that the sea became like blood. A third of the sea creatures died and a third of the seas ships were destroyed, we could also assume that the crews of these ships were destroyed as well. No doubt the destruction here was fatal. There does not even seem like there is a possibility of these ships being repaired. They were obliterated. Notice also the echo to the plagues we see in Exodus when God gave Moses the power to turn the Nile into blood.
In the first two trumpets has brought hail and fire mixed with blood so that half of the land is burned and something like a great burning mountain being thrown into the sea and turning it into blood and killing a third of the sea creatures and destroying a third of the ships. The third angel now blows its trumpet and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and the springs of water. This star has a name: Wormwood. Wormwood is a plant that had a bitter tasting extract that was drawn from it. A third of the rivers and the springs of water were turned bitter. This bitterness was so overpowering that many people died from the water.
The fourth angel now prepares to blow its trumpet. When the trumpet is blown a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars. A third of the light would be darkened, a third of the day would be kept from shining and likewise a third of the night. The day would not be as bright as it usually was and the night would be even darker than it normally was. The cosmic order is being turned upside down.
The first four trumpets have been blown notice two things. First in the first three trumpets that were blown we see their origin. The first angel blew his trumpet and there followed hail and fire. Well if hail and fire fall from where did they come? Likewise in the next two we see something like a great mountain falling to the earth, and a great star falling from heaven. These judgments have a divine origin. They are from the One who sits upon the throne. The first three stress this so we will understand that the rest of the trumpets that follow will be from heaven as well. They have the One who sits upon the throne upon behind them. These judgments are fulfilling His plan for this world.
Secondly did you notice the numbers are getting bigger from the seven seals? Remember the fourth seal gave death authority to kill one fourth. Now in the first four trumpets we see one third in all of them. The picture is getting fuller and clearer. I am not a good numbers guy but one fourth is smaller then one third. It has gone from 25% to 33%.
With the first four trumpets blown John sees an eagle flying and it is crying with a loud voice WOE, WOE, WOE to those who dwell on the earth at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow. He is saying you think this is crazy you ain’t seen nothing yet.
- SATAN TORMENTING HIS FRIENDS: CHAPTER NINE
In verse 1 of chapter 9 the fifth angel blows his trumpet. John then sees a star fallen from heaven to earth and this star was given, notice that language again, the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. The star uses the key and opens the shaft and from it rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace. The sun and the air were darkened because of the smoke from the shaft. From the smoke came locusts on the earth and they were given power like the power of scorpions on the earth. What does a scorpion do? It stings you and leaves you with intense and nagging pain.
These locusts were given a command to not hurt the grass of the earth, any green plant, or any tree. They were only allowed to harm those who DID NOT have the seal of God on their foreheads. So unbelievers, the Lambs enemies are the ones they are allowed to harm. They were limited in another was as well. They were only allowed to torment them for five months. Their torment is like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. The torment will be so bad that these people will wish to be dead but death will not come to them. In fact death will flee from them.
So whats going on here? First notice that these locusts were only released because the start which fell from heaven was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. The start fell from heaven. It came on divine authority. It is only allowed to unlock because the key was given to it. The identification of the star is not the importance here.1
These locusts are only allowed to do what they do because they were given authority to. We do not know who exactly told them and commanded them but keeping in the context this command had the backing, was issued, from the One who sits upon the throne. What do these locust represent? First look at the description John gives of them in verses 7-9. They were like horses prepared for battle, on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold, their faces were like human faces, their hair was like woman’s hair, their teeth are like lions teeth, they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horse rushing into battle. These locusts were to be on the offensive. They are dressed for war. They have tails and stings like scorpions.
Next notice who is their king. Their king is none other than the angel of the bottomless pit. This angels name in Hebrew is Abbadon, and in Greek is Apollyon. Both words mean destroyer. We will see this later but this is none other than Satan. Satan is the king of these locusts. Notice this here. One of the instruments of wrath is God allowing Satan to unleash his demonic hordes, the locusts, and wage war on those who are enemies of God, enemies of the lamb. God in His wrath is allowing Satan to torment those to whom Satan is the Father of. The people these locusts torment are the ones who DO NOT have the seal of God on their foreheads. Satan is tormenting the Satanist if you will. Even though this is the case God is still in control. He is the one who sets the limits on the locusts and gives them the time frame for which they have power. They are not permitted to harm the land, and their torment of the ones who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads will not kill them. They can only do this for a short duration, five months. Even when things seem like chaos God is still in control.
The first woe has passed behold two more are still to come.
The sixth angel now blows its trumpet. When the trumpet is blown John hears a voice from the four horns if the golden altar saying to the sixth angel: Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” These four angels who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year were released to kill a third of mankind, those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Once again they could only kill because they were released. If the order was not given to release them they would still be bound.
The river Euphrates would have conjured up ideas of conquest and danger. This threat, even during the Old Testament, was always immanent. Destruction and oppression and exile came from the north in the Babylonians and the kingdoms that followed them. This would have been understood to the first century believer.
When these angels are released there was a huge number of mounted troops which John sees in this vision. They were to many to count and John says he heard their number When you add up the numbers we have here you get two hundred million. John sees the horses and the riders in his vision as wearing breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, the heads of the horses were like lion’s heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. These seem to be coming from the horses mouths. By these three things, fire, smoke and sulfur, a third of mankind was killed. The power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails. Their tales are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. Serpents in the first century were equated with Satan. Once again this is another one of Satan’s demonic hordes unleashed to kill a third of mankind, a third of those who do no have the seal of God on their foreheads.
Sadly in verse 20 we read that the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues did not repent of the works of their hands, nor give up worshiping demons (the very things which were killing them), they continued to worship idols of gold and silver and bronze and wood. They did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. They did not repent of anything.
The purpose of God’s wrath being displayed we see here was for people to come in repentance. Even when God allows Satan to use his hordes to torment and kill those who do not believe they become even harder in their sins. Their was no change. Life kept going as it had been already. Sadly these people kept sinning. We see this in our day too. When we should be looking for what God is doing in lives and events many turn their back on God. They do not repent, and sadly they blame God. Even in the midst of the outpouring of His wrath God still wants people to repent of their sins and live lives dedicated to His glory by Exalting His Son Jesus, through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
- A BRIGHTER PICTURE: 10:1-11:15
The first six trumpets have been blown. As with the first six seal we now here have a departure it seems from the seventh coming. There is an interlude here. The picture so far has been looking pretty dark and dreary. The reason is we have been looking at what is happening to those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. For the non-Christian, they have nothing positive to see in this picture. These instruments of God’s Holy wrath are directed at them. What we find now as we come to chapter 10 is we now see things from the churches perspective.
Before we deal with the church, in chapter 11, John becomes an active participant in his vision. As we come to chapter ten John sees another angel. This angel is different from anyone we have seen, it is not one of the seven but another one. The angel is coming down from heaven, it s from the One who sits upon the throne and the Lamb. This angel is wrapped in a cloud, which represents, the glory of God, a rainbow over his head, this angels face was like the sun, and its legs like pillars of fire.
The angel has a little scroll open in his hand. This angel is ginormous. He set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land. He called out with a voice like a roaring lion. When this angel called out the seven thunders sounded. When they sounded John was about to write them down but was permitted to seal them up. We do not know what the seven thunders are. Suffice it to say they serve as a warning. They are a warning to those who claim they can predict the end. They can not because they do not have all the details. Some things only God knows and this is what we should take from the seven thunders. Only God knows what they are.
The angel raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever. Who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and all that lives in it that there should be no more delay. That in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel the mystery of God would be fulfilled just as he announced to His servants the prophets. We shall see that when the seventh trumpet is sounded God’s plan to unite all things in Christ will become visible.
The voice that John heard speaking from heaven, which told him to seal up the seven thunders, told him to go take the scroll from the angel who was standing on earth and sea. John went and took it from the angel and the angel told him to eat it. In Johns mouth it will be sweet as honey but in his stomach will be bitter. The word we see here for eat it means to devour. The messenger of God is to devour the very words of God. The scroll is God’s word. It is God’s plan for this world. One would ask why will this make John’s stomach bitter? There is a strange sweetness and bitterness to one who teaches and preaches God’s Word. They are sweet to the messenger. At times they can be bitter as well. John is later told that he must again prophesy about many peoples, nations, languages and kings. His message is not always a very pleasant one, but it is the true and faithful message. There are times when the messenger of God would rather not teach faithfully. The words of God are sweet but at the same time they can be bitter because if they are not followed only wrath will come.
As we come to chapter 11 John is once again taking an active part in the vision he is receiving from Jesus. In verse 1 he is given a measuring rod like a staff and is told to measure the temple of God and the altar and those worshiping there. He is not to measure the outer court for that is given over to the nations. Pause for a second here because this seems to be way out in left field. What does this have to do with anything?
First what does the measuring mean? To being listen to 2 Samuel 8:2: “And he (David) defeated Moab and he measured them with a line, making them lie down on the ground. Two lines he measured to be put to death, and one full line to be spared.” Here the measuring has to do with setting aside. Some were measured and they were killed, some were measured and they were spared. Say for now lets say simply the measuring has to do with being set aside.
Second John measured the temple, the altar and those worshiping there. Is this a literal temple? No John is using a literal thing, a real thing, to teach us a symbolic truth. By the time John wrote Revelation around 95 AD the temple in Jerusalem was gone. It had been destroyed in 70 AD. Keep in mind also what we learned from the 144,000 being sealed in chapter 7. That was referring to the church. Same scenario here. John has heard six trumpets blown and see the wrath, the judgment that ensued. Once again this is the church. Paul writing to the Corinthian church said: Do you not know are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?2 Writing to the Ephesian church he says: in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the lord.3 Peter says that the church is a spiritual house.4 The church is called the temple of God in many other places in the New Testament as well.
The measuring of the temple the altar and those who worship there are representative of the church being measured off or protected by God. These crazy things may be happening around them, but God’s protective and sovereign hand is with them. The outer court of the temple may be trampled by the nations but the inner court, the church, is protected. When the nations trample the holy city for forty-two months the church is protected by God.
As with the interlude in chapter 7 which had two parts so does this one in chapter 11. We now encounter the two witnesses. God will grant His two witnesses authority and they will prophesy for 1,260 days or forty-two months, clothed in sackcloth. These witnesses are the two olive trees and two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. If anyone would harm these witnesses fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. These two witnesses have power to shut the sky as Elijah did, and power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they desire, as Moses did. When they have finished their testimony the beast (more on this in later chapters) rises from the bottomless pit and will make war on them and conquer them and kill them and leave their bodies laying in the streets. Their bodies lie in the street of the city which is symbolically or spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord Jesus was crucified, this possibly refers to Jerusalem. People refuse to put them in a tomb which in the first century was the ultimate insult. To let someones corpse to lay there and be seen by all and eaten by animals. Those who dwell on the earth make merry and exchange presents because their word cannot torment them anymore. This is not the end after three and a half days, which is a short amount of time, a breath of life from God entered them and they stood upon their feet and great fear seized those who saw them. They heard a loud voice saying come up here and they went up to heaven in a cloud.
Here is what we have the two witnesses represent the church. In the Old Testament we see where two witnesses are needed to confirm testimony. You can find this in Deut. 19:15 and also in Matthew 18:16. The message the church spreads is the gospel. I wish we would focus on the power here we see. The church has power. It is not powerless, but derives its power from it’s Lord Jesus Christ. The message is so powerful that it torments the people who it is delivered to. It seems that this represents a time in history when persecution and peoples response to the gospel will grow even more violent than what we normally see. The time John is describing here is what some would call the tribulation. Put simply the tribulation is a period of time when persecution of the church will become violent and will last for a short period of time. The beast that rises kills the two witnesses, the church. The church is crippled to the point where is seems as if it is dead. It does not seem to have the great power it once did. The people of this earth will rejoice. They will have a big cookout and celebration because the gospel is not proclaimed like it once was.
Hope is not lost though my friends. There will come a time when a breath from God will enter the church again and we will be called up to heaven. This calling up to heaven is the second coming of Jesus. He is coming back for his church. This will be a traumatic experience for those who are not sealed by God. There will be a great earthquake and 7,000 people will die from the earthquake. Those who remain are terrified and they give glory to God. This does not mean they are saved though.
Protection is what God promises us. Our idea of protection is not always Gods idea of protection. We are to be faithful even if it costs us our lives. Even in death the believer still has protection. Things are not as they always seem they are. In this vision the church seems to be dead but a breath of life enters them and the one who died for the church Jesus Christ calls them home to be with Him.
- THE SEVENTH TRUMPET: 11:15-19
God protects His people. Even in the face of death the church has life. The first two woes have passes and the third one comes. The seventh and final angel blows his trumpet. The scene now shifts from earth to heaven. Loud voices in heaven say the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. Jesus has come again. The second coming has happened. At hearing this the twenty-four elders once again fell on their faces and worshiped God saying. We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, Who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged but your wrath came and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and the saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great and for destroying the destroyers of the earth. Notice that God is now the one who is and who was. He is no longer the one who is to come because He has come.
God’s temple was opened in heaven and the ark of the covenant was seen within His temple. For the one who was sealed with the seal of God this is a symbol of God being faithful to His covenant. To the one who is not this is a symbol of God’s wrath. Remember when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and their fake gods kept getting chopped up and falling off walls? This horrified them, it brought wrath upon them.
This vision of the ark will lead us into chapter twelve also and serves as a reminder to God’s people that He is faithful to His covenant.
- WRAP IT UP
We have covered a lot of ground. I hope the application is clear here for us. Even in the midst of chaos, in the midst of what seems to be evil somehow these all work to bring about God’s purposes. Throughout these chapters we see where authority was given. Strict limits were set. God is in control.
All things work together for good to those who love God. Everything we go through is God’s way of conforming us into the image of Christ. If you take anything from this morning take the truth that we, you, believers a protected by God. Therefore we do not have to worry about the circumstances around us and we can focus on Jesus. Even when forces of demons are let loose we are protected. When demons are tormenting and killing God has his protective hand on us.
We should not, as a church, let the thought that harsh tribulation could come during our lifetime affect how we spread the gospel. The church has the power to shut up the sky and to turn water into blood. But we are not powerful on our own. We are powerful because we have as our head the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is a powerful message. It has the power to change. It has the power to break people. It has the power to wreck lives and make people rely on Jesus.
I will close once again by saying we need to focus on Jesus. Nothing we face will make sense if we are not focused on Jesus. We do not know if we will be alive or dead when intense tribulation comes. One thing we do know is that if we are here Jesus is still our protector and purger. The world around us may enjoy our demise. They may throw a celebration and set off fireworks because it seems as if the church is losing. Do NOT lose heart. Jesus is still in control. Wrath is coming for those who want to see the church dead and lifeless and lying in the street. But for the church, believers, this is a sign of the end. Our Lord and Savior will be coming soon to take His church from this earth and we will be under His reign alone in the New Heaven and the New Earth. A place where lights will not be needed because God, The Lamb will be there and their glory will shine so bright we will have no need.
I don’t know about you but I long for that day. I may have to face tribulation. The beast may kill me. But I will see Jesus face to face and I will join with countless others in a never ending worship service to the one who ransomed me by shedding His blood. FOCUS ON JESUS!