Monday, October 20, 2008

Revelation 8, The Judgments Resume at the Blasting of Trumpets

As Jesus removes the seventh and final seal from the scroll, another wave of more intense judgments devastate the earth in response to a series of trumpet blasts made in heaven by a select group of archangels.

v.1 "When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour."

This period of absolute heavenly silence is one of the most intriguing moments recorded in Revelation. It’s not explained why heaven, which to this point had resounded with voices, all at once becomes decidedly quiet within the space of "about half an hour”, so we dare not comment. But we may have an anti-type in the Old Testament. According to Joshua’s record, when the ancient city of Jericho was about to be overthrown, and the victory for Israel secured, there was period of silence prior to the blasting of trumpets (Josh.6:10, 15, 16).

v.2 "And I saw the seven angels that stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets."

Given that John tells us these angels are "the seven angels that stand before God", purposely distinguishing them from other angels, probably means that they are archangels. The prefix "arch" means "first”, and signifies them as a select host of angels "first" in the angelic hierarchy and with "first access" to God. Two of them are named in the Bible: Michael, who is called "the archangel" (Jude 9), and Gabriel, who identified himself to Zacharias as the one "who stands in the presence of God" (Lu.1:19). So John sees Michael, Gabriel, and five other archangels each given a trumpet to signal and unleash the next series of judgments.

v.3-5 "Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar that is 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, lightning's, and an earthquake."

The actions of God speak volumes about the unyielding compassion He holds for His people. With Heaven made ready for judgment, it’s then adequately perfumed with incense, and then inside the silence of Heaven God listens to the prayers of His saints. It’s not until afterward, when those prayers are fully heard, that the symbols of judgment—"noises, thunderings, lightning's, and an earthquake"—manifest themselves in the cascading fire ablaze with those prayers and thrown from the heavenly altar to the earth. Oh, how prophetic are the words:
"In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it…From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire" (Ps.18:6-8, 12-13).

v.6-7 "So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up."

All seven archangels raise their trumpets in readiness to sound, but they won't all sound at once. We will see them one by one, in systematic order, each loudly blasting their signal for more intense judgments.

This first trumpet blast ignites a storm of "hail and fire...mingled with blood" that desolates a third of this planet's trees, along with all of its green grass.

v.8-9 "Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood; and a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed."

This second trumpet blast causes an event that seemingly mystifies John because “Something,” he writes, "like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea.” As a result, one third of the ocean becomes blood, one third of the ocean's living creatures die, and one third of the ships sailing across the ocean perish.

v.10-11 "Then the third angel sounded: And a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water; and the name of the star is Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood; and many men died from the water, because it was made bitter."

This blast of the third trumpet causes another fiery object to fall from the sky. But this time John identifies it as a "great star" named Wormwood (Gr.apsinthos, "bitter"), and by it, one third of the earth's fresh water supply is poisoned. "And many men died from the water, because it was made bitter."

v.12 "Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened; and a third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night."

This fourth trumpet blast causes horrific air pollution, probably the result of the first three judgments. A blanket of smoke and soot and ash so thick that it causes the sun to appear one third less bright by day, and the moon and stars to appear one third less bright by night.

v.13 "And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, 'Woe, woe , woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!' "

This three-fold “woe” proclaimed so loudly through the corridors of heaven by this flying angel is the same word generally used in the Bible in conjunction with the condition of one’s present pitiful state, as an exclamation of grief. Jesus, for instance, used the word eight times in one discourse against the scribes and Pharisees in matters concerning their spiritual blindness and hypocrisy (see—Matt.23:1-36), and in another place to underscore the deplorable state in which a pregnant or nursing woman will find herself if caught in the Tribulation (Matt.25:19).

It's also interesting that the word “midst of heaven” through which the angel is flying means mid-heaven, a word used only in Revelation. It signifies, not merely the space between heaven and earth, but the highest point in the heavens occupied by the sun at noon. In other words, the image is not that of an angel in random flight throughout the sky, but one in a purposeful location directly above the earth.

Cling on to your Bibles, dear ones, for the worst is yet to come. Whereas, the first four judgments provoked judgment upon the physical world, and man only indirectly, the next three evoke judgment upon man directly. A sequence of judgments so fueled by God’s fury that none of all the inhabitants of the earth, except for the hundred and forty-four thousand sealed earlier by God, escape without injury.

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