Summary: Trumpets sound to herald the coming judgement of God. All sorts of terrors are unleashed on the world. Yet people will continue to ignore these warnings. People will fight tooth and nail against anyone who stands up to defend their faith in God or to pro
Do you feel secure? What sort of thing shakes your sense of security? What do you think of when you see reports of disasters like the earthquakes we’ve just seen in New Zealand and Japan? Or the civil uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya? What does it make you think of? Do you worry about your own security here in Australia? Or friends who may be living somewhere equally unsafe? Or does it make you realise your own mortality, your own frailty before the power of nature, your own dependence on God if you’re to survive in this world? Was this God’s work or just a random event of nature? If it is God at work, what is he doing? What’s he trying to achieve?
As we’ve read through Revelation thus far we’ve seen the 7 seals being opened and now the final seal is broken - and suddenly there’s silence. We’re left in suspense. What does the scroll say? What is this message that’s been sealed up until the last day? Do the things that have happened as each seal has been slit constitute the contents of the scroll, or is there more?
But then in the silence 7 angels appear, standing before God. 7 trumpets are given to them. An angel with a golden censer appears - with a great quantity of incense. What’s this all about? It’s the prayers of the saints which rise before God. And what do you think these prayers are about? About their trials and tribulations perhaps? Asking for help in the face of opposition? And what’s God’s response?
The censer is thrown on the earth with fire from the altar - there’s thunder and lightning and earthquakes - all images that are used commonly to describe God’s anger or judgement.
Then the seven trumpets begin to sound. Trumpets were used to proclaim victory or as a call to battle or as a warning of impending doom, and it seems the latter is the case here.
The first trumpet sounds and hail and fire mixed with blood are hurled to the earth and a third of the earth is burned up. The second trumpet sounds and this time it’s the sea that receives the brunt of God’s anger. A third of the sea becomes blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea die, a third of the ships are destroyed. Then it’s the turn of the rivers and springs, a third of which are turned bitter by wormwood so that many people die. Then it’s the heavens that have a third of their light darkened.
What’s happening here? What’s the significance of these disasters that come as the first four trumpets sound?
Well, it might be an allusion to Genesis 1. Remember how God made the world? He made the seas and the sky on the 2nd day, the dry land with it’s plants on the 3rd day, he put the sun moon and stars in the sky on the 4th day, and he made the sea and water creatures on the 5th day. And each time he declared it was good. But here we see those same elements experiencing chaos rather than the serenity of the creation story.
And what about Exodus: the plagues that God sent on the land of Egypt were similar to these judgements - water turned to blood, hail and lightning, the sun blotted out.
What we see here is God acting in judgement on a fallen creation. His fury is seen in fire, earthquake, poison, darkness.
But at the same time, notice that it’s only a third that’s destroyed. The damage is severe but it’s limited. God’s hand of judgement is restrained. As we’ll see in a moment these disasters are meant as a warning as much as a judgement. God’s anger is poured out on a world that’s rejected him, but he holds back in the hope that people might yet turn away from their rebellion and repent. Ezek 18:23: “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?” We read 2 Peter 3:9 last time: “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” In Luke 13:4-5, Jesus says: “4those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them -- do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” Here we have a picture of the last days, as God’s anger is expressed, to a limited degree, but as a warning to us, in the hope that more people will repent.