Summary: The sixth trumpet warns of a terrible taste of hell for those in the Tribulation.
Well – today we have a formidable task, to somehow cover three chapters of the book of Revelation. We are using the same portion of Scripture in worship that we are using for our Bible study on Wednesday evenings and these chapters are difficult and appear very strange – like most of Revelation.
After our study on Wednesday evening, I had dreams all night about some of the images. I awoke numerous times and was thinking “Stop this. Dream of something else.” But they just wouldn’t go away. My sleep was filled with huge angels, locusts that have the face of men with long hair and the Abyss.
When I was ten years old a friend and I were dropped off at the theater in town while mom shopped and the movie scared the bajeebies out of me. It was from an Edgar Alan book, the Pit and the Pendulum, staring Vincent Price – a really creepy guy – and in the movie there was, of course, a pit. It was a bottomless pit with fire and smoke and they would tangle people over the pit. And that pit was back Wednesday night in my dreams because in this section, there is a pit – called the Abyss – a place where demons are kept – only during the Tribulation they are released and they torment people.
Now we can’t read everything that is in chapters 8-11 but they are all a part of what is called the Great Tribulation. And American Christians always want to know, “When is this going to happen? Will it happen in 2012 to coincide with the predictions in the Mayan Calendar? What are the signs? How will we know when it starts? Should we be stockpiling food and ammunition like Glen Beck says that we should?”
And I think we need to gain a much larger perspective on this. The church has two views about the Tribulation – at least among those who acknowledge that there is one. One opinion is that the tribulation began with the ascension of Jesus Christ and that the entire church age is in fact the tribulation – that there have always been and will always be wars, persecutions, and great times of testing until Christ returns. The other opinion is that it has not begun yet and will be a definite seven-year period of severe testing.
And it really depends on where you are in the world. If we were to ask some Christians who are living in China, or any nation where Christianity is illegal, they would probably say that we are in the midst of the tribulation right now, because they are being persecuted. Did you see the news about the man who is told by the Iranian Supreme Court to renounce Christianity and return to his parent’s faith of Islam or be executed? I am confident that in those nations they would say that we are in the midst of the Tribulation right now. Or maybe if we would ask some Christians living in Eastern Africa, they might say “Tribulation – yes – it has been going on now for ten years.” But it does in some part depend on our context – our life situation.
But when Americans are asked about the Tribulation, we think only about how to avoid it. In my opinion, some Christians have done some rather difficult interpretive gymnastics in order to come up with a doctrine where the church is removed from all of the Temptation. That is called pre-tribulation rapture – where all Christians are removed from the earth prior to the tribulation. But even the pre-tribulation rapture does not satisfy some.
Back in the 1970’s there was an increased interest in the Tribulation and the return of Christ. And I remember people saying that they really wanted Christ to return, but . . . . And we always have the watch what follows after that word “but.” “But – I would like to raise my kids. I want to finish my degree. I want to experience having grandkids. I don’t think I could endure watching my family suffer.” And those “buts” show us our lack of understanding of God and God’s plan for this world. The tribulation is – whether it is thousands of years or seven -- -a time when priorities are revealed and all people are warned by God – over and over – that it is time to worship God alone.
We have here in this section three series of seven warnings. First are the seven seals. We looked at them last week. This week we have the seven trumpets. And then later there are seven bowls. And each set of seven has a pattern. The first four in each series have to do with judgments that are very physical and impact the earth and the people who live on the earth. Then the next two judgments are spiritual. The seventh one looks to the future and tells about the return of Christ. And then included in each section of the seven judgments is an interlude – a break – where something else is revealed.