Monday, June 09, 2003

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

The Seven Trumpets

For those who would like to start at the very beginning of this series on the book of Revelation, click here.

If you have not followed this series from the beginning, I recommend that you visit this post about the structure of Revelation. The thesis of that post is that the structure of the book of Revelation, after the vision of the throne, consists of seven profiles of the future. Each profile tells the establishment of God's kingdom on earth, but each has its own time line and purpose.

The seven seals told the story of the coming Kingdom of God from a natural point of view. It involved war, violence, famine, and martyrdom. All these things happen in the natural realm, although the intensity during the very end of this age might be markedly increased. The trumpets, it seems to me, take us into a more supernatural level. The events that follow each blast of a trumpet are unlike anything that the world has seen. If the seven seals are about the end coming from the natural consequences of human activity and sin, then the trumpets are about the Lord applying pressure on mankind by providing a foretaste of the wrath that is coming.

The story told by the seven trumpets begins this way:

Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel holding a golden censer came and was stationed at the altar. A large amount of incense was given to him to offer up, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar that is before the throne. The smoke coming from the incense, along 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 on the earth, and there were crashes of thunder, roaring, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:2-5, The Net Bible)

Before the angels bearing the seven trumpets can sound, attention in heaven is given to the prayers of the saints--the believers on the earth. The effect of these prayers was an initial shaking of the earth preliminary to the sounding of the trumpets. Our prayers reach heaven and have an effect of this earth. Notice, also, that the prayers are mixed with incense. This means that our prayers are magnified in their effects by being mixed with incense from God Himself. The message is similar to Paul's words in Romans:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)

We do not pray in vain. The prayers that ascend to heaven during this time are probably much like prayers offered by Christians around the world this very day. There are the prayers of those who are suffering and dying for their faith in Jesus the Messiah, "How long o Lord before you avenge our blood? Give us strength! Protect and guard my family!..." There are the prayers against the dark powers of this age to release those held in bondage to addiction, disease, and unclean spirits. There are the prayers for the lost souls in this world. We do not pray in vain. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and our God in heaven provides an incense to mix with our prayers to help them Him. They have a mighty effect on this world. Pray on!

Trumpets are used for fanfares and to call attention. Trumpets have been used in battle situations to communicate instructions to the soldiers, such as when to advance and when to retreat. Gideon used trumpets to great effect in his defeat of the Midianites with a mere 300 soldiers. I understand the trumpets in Revelation to serve the same purpose. They sound to get the world's attention that the Lord is beginning to rise against the sin on the earth. They are a foretaste of what is to come, and they call the people of the earth to repent and receive His mercy and salvation.

The seven angels sound:

  1. The first trumpet: hail and fire mixed with blood burns up 1/3 of the vegetation on the earth. Perhaps this speaks of unusual weather patterns that wreck havoc on agriculture and the food supply.
  2. The second trumpet: a great mountain of burning fire kills 1/3 of the sea creatures and demolishes 1/3 of sea going vessels. Much as I would like to imagine something else, my readings in astronomy prejudice me toward seeing this as a small asteroid impact. This also affects the food supply.
  3. The third trumpet: a burning start like a torch makes 1/3 of fresh water bitter. The name of this star is "Wormwood." There are two things to note here. First, up till now "stars" have been connected with angels. Second, this star is given a name. Perhaps the first two trumpets can be seen in a naturalistic way, but I think this trumpet crosses over to the supernatural realm. This is to say that even if there were a natural appearing reason for the springs and rivers of the earth to become bitter, there is a demonic motivator in the background. This plague affects safe drinking water.
  4. The fourth trumpet: 1/3 of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened. An eagle flies in the air proclaiming,  “Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth because of the remaining sounds of the trumpets of the three angels who are about to blow them!” Perhaps, assuming the first three trumpets deal directly with food and fresh water, the people of the earth would discard the notion that the plagues as being a warning from God. The fourth trumpet, however, manifests God's dominion over the heavens. The eagle, whatever else it might represent, indicates that a clear message will be spoken to the people of the earth about the nature of these events. They are also told that three more woes are ahead.
  5. The fifth trumpet: "Locusts" from the abyss. But these are strange creatures. They do not really look like locusts and they are commanded not to eat any green thing. They are called locusts because of their swarming numbers. My preference for understanding them is to see them has a demonic swarm that will torture the souls of men. There is much about the description of those who suffer from these locusts that reminds me of Job's sufferings. Satan smote Job with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Satan tormented Job with dreams in the night. Job wanted to die, but the Lord had prohibited Satan from killing him. So it will be during this time, only much of mankind will be afflicted.
  6. The sixth trumpet: 200 million "soldiers" move to kill 1/3 of mankind. I see these as being a demonic force as well.
  7. There now follows an interlude having two sections. There is a strong angel who descends and stands on the land and the sea and speaks. There is great power and authority in the angel and his standing on the earth and the sea speaks of his dominion over the earth. The second section has to do with the two witnesses in Jerusalem. These are able to work the same miracles as Moses and Elijah, and we might see them as being instrumental in some of the plagues described above. They are part of the warning that the Lord is giving the earth at this time.

  8. The seventh angel: The final woe is the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Then the twenty-four elders who are seated on their thrones before God threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and worshiped God with these words: “We give you thanks, Lord God, the All-Powerful, The one who is and who was, Because you have taken your great power And begun to reign. The nations were enraged, but your wrath has come, and the time has come for the dead to be judged, and the time has come to give to your servants, the prophets, their reward, as well as to the saints and to those who revere your name, both small and great, and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:15-18)

It seems strange the the third woe would be the final establishment of the Kingdom. However, it is at this point that the strongholds of evil and sin have been destroyed. For many on the earth, it will be a time of woe, just as it will be a time of rejoicing and praise in heaven and for the saints.

The seals ended with the wrath of the Lamb and silence in heaven. The trumpets also end with the wrath of God and the establishment of His Kingdom. You can begin to see why I structure Revelation as seven profiles of the future. The seals and trumpets have told the same story from a different point of view. I mentioned that wrath ascribed to the Lamb shows that God's mercy is extended to the end. The same is true with the trumpets. To be sure each blast brings pain on the earth, but it is directed pain designed to bring repentance. It is, therefore, significant that AFTER the effects of the sixth trumpet are complete and BEFORE the sounding of the seventh trumpet bringing the wrath of God, the state of mankind is thus:

The rest of humanity, who had not been killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so that they did not stop worshiping demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk about. Furthermore, they did not repent of their murders, of their magic spells, of their sexual immorality, or of their stealing. (Revelation 9:20-21)

What remains on the earth is a hardened humanity. Skip forward and read the section of the bowls of wrath and see how mankind reacts with a raised fist against God. The trumpets have done their work. Many new saints have been added to the Book of Life, but the book is full. No more will come.

The seals have a human face. The trumpets have a supernatural and demonic face:

  • The effects of the earth are supernatural: hail, fire, blood, burning mountains, and a burning star.
  • The effects in the heaven are supernatural: the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars.
  • The effects on mankind are supernatural: demons from the abyss and from across the Euphrates.

But mankind does not repent and this opens the door for God's wrath. It is worth remembering Abram's dialog with the Lord over the destruction of Sodom. Abram was concerned that the Lord's judgment would also destroy righteous men and women in the city, and the Lord honored that concern by removing Lot and his family from Sodom before He destroyed it. Similarly in Jeremiah's day, "The Lord said, “Go up and down through the streets of Jerusalem. Look around and take note. Search through its public squares. See if you can find a single person who deals honestly and tries to be faithful and true. If you can, then I will not punish this city. (Jeremiah 5:1)"

The Lord withholds His wrath so that we and others can find the riches of His salvation. We Christians are often more eager to pour out wrath than God is. It is time for us to promote His mercy and lovingkindness.

Tuesday: The Seven Persons

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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