The Apocalypse week 5
The Judgments Poured out
Revelation 8 and 9
Change terrifies us doesn’t it? What if that change is cause by catastrophe? The change that is forced by the death of a loved one the election of a wrong president, or the loss of savings. In all this we are forced to move on and just get on with life?
We don’t want to; we want to stop and pause. Rather stay in the pain than be forced to move on .It seems wrong; however, it is inevitable and things move on.
Well a change is coming church and will probably come many times. Things will be shaken up and rearranged again and again, and just when everyone is crying peace, peace; watch because that might be the start of a great change.
Tonight we are covering Revelation 8 and 9 the trumpets of judgment that John sees in his vision in the book of revelation. Now I would love to read these two chapters with you and walk through them step by step, however there is simply not enough time, so I will allude to them in and hopefully you will read them when you get home.
It is in this portion of Revelation that everything changes; all off a sudden the mood changes in the Apocalypse (or Revelation).
This starts when the lamb opens up the seventh seal in verse 8
Let’s read verses 1
Revelation 8New International Version (NIV)
The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer
8 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
John forces a stop for the reader, like a warning that he is about to shift gear. I believe John actually saw this event a stop in heaven a point of recognition of what had just taken place.
The scroll was open the seventh seal was broken that which was hidden was able to be read. And heaven responds in awe-filled silence.
You and I run from silence in our noise filled world. However, John causes the reader to recognise with this sudden silence that it is done; the scroll is open! What will come next will be earth shattering, world changing; and it is!
So before we discuss what is to come we need to recap what has passed:
God is on His throne
The lamb is worthy
The People of God are His people and protected
God is for His people and no matter what happens their end is with Him
The Angel And The Golden Censer
The Six Judgments
It is to this set up that John starts describing some truly awful and terrifying images of destruction and chaos.
Essentially he is stating that church prepare yourself; change is coming – don’t get too comfortable here; this is not your home!
After much research into this passage I have to say that the danger of this passage is to get stuck on the images rather than on what God is doing in these judgment. God is winning a true victory over evil; that is the overriding message of Revelation, but unlike the narrative that we hear from governments when they talk about the war on terror; or the evil out there. God recognises that evil is in the heart of man and so to win judgment must come! Evil must be judged as evil so that the heavens and earth can be free from evil just as God had planned from the very beginning.
I believe John structured this book to give the church a high view of God and Christ and a secure view of themselves in Christ so that when he described the terrifying judgments they would not become overly interested in them nor terrified by them; but they would see them as they are; God dealing with wickedness and evil once and for all. God condemning the wickedness and evil of mankind in order to re-establish the new world. A new world that will have Heaven and earth combined where God will dwell with His people and they will be content in Him.
Unfortunately for this to happen the old way of doing things has to be dealt with; this new world cannot be built on the structures or even the rubble of this age; rather a cleansing must happen so that evil might finally be dealt with once and for all time.
So let’s get stuck in;
We start with a peculiar image:
After the silence in heaven we are transported to a scene of an angel holding a golden censer (which is a small round device that holds incense). This angel takes fire from the alter of God and throws it to the earth essentially inaugurating the events to come. With this action comes great thunder and flashes of lightning and earthquakes.
What has happened is powerful. If we read this passage, we see that this censer and action is connect to the prayers of the saints. This is not a haphazard connection by John. Rather it is a continuation of what God has always done; he connects His work with His people.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
God can work irrespective of us; however, He always choses to work with us and in us to accomplish His work. What follows is no different. The judgements of God that will bring about the new world are connected to the prayers of the saints!
Church we have a part to play in what God is doing in this world; even if that part is prayer; in fact, especially if that part is prayer!
This action leads to the seven angels who had seven trumpets; which inaugurate the judgments.
On a side note: Trumpets have a rich tradition in the Old Testament Scriptures. Predominantly, trumpets were used to (1) call God’s people together; (2) call to repentance; (3) announce judgment; (4) call to salvation; (5) call to the king’s coronation; and (6) announce eschatological judgment. The apostle Paul indicates that the trumpet of God will blow at the Second Coming of Christ (1 Thess 4:16, 1 Cor 15:52). The seven trumpets of Revelation clearly announce judgment.
So let’s look at…
These six judgments connected on some level with the plagues on Egypt; however, also disconnect in some way to show that God is doing a new thing. Unlike the plagues of Egypt; God is not simply rescuing His people, in this regard God is dealing with the problem in creation; that being the sinfulness of mankind and the subsequent fallout because of that sin.
We see six terrifying judgments poured out on mankind;
Hail mixed with blood that causes fire
A huge mountain that cause the sea to turn to blood
A star that causes bitterness in the water that leads to death
The sun, moon and stars being struck causing darkness
The Abyss being opened loosing demonic locusts that harm men
And finally a demonic army that marches across the empire to kill men.
Read these plagues for yourself there is a sense of dread and horror that is poured out upon the world. Can I be honest with you tonight? I think that there is both a real cataclysmic reality to these that awaits mankind at the end of the age; however, from what I have studied I think the symbolic intention of these visions is to empower the church and prepare the church for the current realities that she finds herself in and will constantly find herself in until God puts things right. Church we are fighting for a new way of doing things; where God is King the world in her sin will never settle for that!
John is saying the world we live in; its systems its people everything about it is dying and is poised for judgment it cannot go on as it is. Jesus has come (and in this I mean has come in his incarnation and not his second coming), the victory is won (on the cross); all that awaits this world, its rules and people is judgment.
So do not get invested and do not align yourself with the people and the systems of this world. Live with one foot in this world but don’t buy into its way of doing things. The Lamb has won; victory is secure and judgment awaits this world.
I think the early church saw this in some capacity as it went through one empire collapse after the next. And I think we feel it as the world tinkers on the edge of what looks like all out chaos. Church the lesson remains; this world and all its ways is only destined for destruction – this is not our home; don’t see it as such!
You see the temptation is always to think that this is it; that we have somehow arrived as people; that this is as good as it gets; and to live like heaven’s rule doesn’t matter and things will always go on as they always have. We see this in the way we speak about the modern world (and it was the same way the Romans talked about their world).
We have arrived and without God have made a world where evil is on the most part dealt with (at least that is the narrative that people try and convince themselves of). Evil is out there but we will identify it and eradicate it – we by our own will, will create a world of peace and safety. We say this without ever recognising that evil; the very evil we are wanted to eradicate, in order to created our world without God; is right there with us. In fact, we are the cause of it and it permeates everything we do. Evil cannot be swept away; it cannot be identified out there and destroyed. It has to be judged by a holy judge who will deal with it!
We will see this theme being constantly developed as we journey through Revelation; God in his mercy judges the evil of men. However, men refuse to repent; they refuse to accept the loving discipline of God and come back to Him; to submit to his rule again! So judgment is continued to be poured out until it has fully run its course and everything of this current world system all its greed, abuse, misuse, and wickedness is dealt with by the hand of God. Then once all things have been dealt with and swept away God will tabernacle with His people for an eternity of His rule.
The issue of this is seen in the end of chapter nine where we are given a glimpse to what is wrong with mankind…
The Hearts of Man
We read in chapter 9:20-21
Revelation 9:20-21New International Version (NIV)
20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
Church John is showing a persecuted church and indeed us today; that yes he will bring His righteous judgment on all the wickedness of men however, even when their world is destroyed; when their empires are in shatters; when all that they have spent so much time and energy building to make themselves independent from God is taken away and destroyed; they will still not turn to him. They will still not hope in Him and stop the evil of their hands.
No church, this world and all that it is building is destined for judgment; its own end is destruction, but we must not worry for this world and its kingdoms, its pleasures and joys are not ours. We belong to another kingdom who’s King already sits upon His throne and who patiently waits for the right time to bring in His rule completely and finally; and when that happens everything will be set right!
So what do we take from this tonight?
Church the application is this; Jesus the Lamb has won the victory! God will bring His righteous judgment upon this dying world and its system, so church live in the world but don’t be a part of it.
You are not destined for here, its ways are not your ways; you are part of the new order, the new way of being human. This new way was shown to us by Christ and then confirmed that it is coming by His resurrection! Therefore, Church, we need to live loosely with this world because this world is not our home. Heaven’s righteous rule is coming; will you be on the side of God or invested in the wickedness of this world.