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November 24th, 2020
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gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron


A sermon we once heard on judgment was troubling because of the dispassionate way the speaker outlined coming tragedies. In the Old Testament, Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet” which indicated he was faithful in delivering the message, though it was sorrowful for him. What I hope to convey from this series is that the Creator has a plan for redemption, and though the necessary means to achieving that plan are terrible, we serve a loving, patient God, who offers deliverance even in tragedy. 

You may recall from last week that Revelation chapter 6 describes a scroll, and the breaking of five seals before the sixth “woe” releases the Day of Wrath. 

Chapter 8 begins with the opening of the last seal. “‘When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them’” (Revelation 8:1-2). The worship and music stop, and what follows is so terrible that apprehension falls upon them all. Earth may deny and defy the judgment of God, but the heavens know its certainty. 

The Lamb, Jesus who was crucified, breaks the final seal, which reveals the nearness of seven judgments on the wicked. Like the plagues of Egypt (Exodus chapters 8 through 12), catastrophes announced by these trumpets are sent not to punish, but designed to bring repentance. 

However, before the trumpets sound, another angel comes, “holding a golden censer”, and “the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand” (Revelation 8:3, 4). This is a reminder that prayers of suffering saints are more important to God even than songs of heaven; the Christian's part is to be faithful and pray. The censer of worship then becomes the censer of judgment. When the angel throws it, a series of four environmental disasters, which could be natural or manmade, are released on the earth. 

The first trumpet in Revelation chapter 8 brings hail and fire (verse 7); the second describes perhaps a volcano which destroys a third of sea life and shipping commerce (verses 8-9). With the third trumpet, “‘a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters’”, turning them bitter (verses 10 and 11). The fourth trumpet summons darkened skies (verse 12), reminding of Exodus 10:21 when Moses stretched out his hand and there was “darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.” God’s power will be demonstrated amid spiritual darkness. 

Chapter 8 closes with, “‘…an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”” (verse 13). The next two trumpets announce terrors that will fall directly on rebellious people. 

When the fifth angel sounds his trumpet, John writes, “‘I saw a star from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him’” (Revelation 9:1). The locusts arising from this abyss are described in verses 2 through 11. The unnerving vision appears to describe demonic creatures which hurt only those lacking the seal of God’s protection on their foreheads (verse 4), and their torment is limited in time to five months (verse 5). 

With the sixth trumpet, John describes four angels “‘…bound at the great river Euphrates.’” He continues, “‘The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million;’” (Revelation 9:16). Both the locusts from the pit and the army from the east appear to be instruments of depravity, supernatural and sent at an exact date and time allowed by God (verse 15). 

These two chapters of Revelation reveal the extent to which God will go to bring repentance. But the sobering conclusion is that, terrifying as the judgments are, much of humanity remains defiant. I’ve heard it said that those who reject mercy seldom respond to tragedy. The chapter closes sadly, “‘The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts’” (Revelation 9:20-21). 

At the moment, the final judgment is restrained, perhaps because prayers are still going up and people are still responding to Christ. But one day the purifying wrath will be administered completely. 

Next week’s study of chapters 10 and 11 will describe the seventh and last trumpet, helping answer the question, what should we do? 

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