Terror (Revelation 8-9)

“Change course” came the signal to the bridge.

“No! We advise that you change course” was the response

Again: “We strongly advise that you change course.”

The officer on duty signalled a reply “This is a US Navy cruiser. We strongly advise that you change course.”

After a short pause, the reply came back, “This is a lighthouse … we strongly advise that you change course.”

What will it take to get people to change course and turn from sin to God?

What will it take to get you to turn to him?

  1. Seeing with new eyes – how do we make sense of the pain, persecution and suffering in the World around us?

From one perspective, it is just life. Stuff happens,

Of course, there is the option of denouncing all we see around us as “fake news” and “alternative facts” but most of us are unlikely to go for that option.

However, there is a better alternative.  All through Rev elation, we’ve been seeing how this book gives us a new perspective. We get to see things through God’s eyes, all of history from the perspective of the control room, of God’s throne in Heaven.  There is a spiritual reality including the work of Satan but this is only what he is permitted to do within tight limits. Even more importantly, God is sovereign and he is at work. However, we see that these are the consequences of living in a fallen world, under judgement.

Seven Trumpets and 3 woes/terrors

V6 – There are seven angels with trumpets, heralds telling us to “sit up and take notice” We will hear six of the trumpets now and see 2 of the woes.

Trumpet 1fire and hail (cf Ex 9:23) -blood (v 7) (cf Joel 2:31). 1/3 of the earth is burned.

Trumpet 2 A mountain of fire (this  would fit with the area and Vesuvius erupting in AD 79 and destroying Pompei[1]) into the sea which turns  to blood.  1/3 of the  sea creaturesare killed.

Trumpet 3  A falling star causes bitter water (v 10-11). Note this may be comet, or the stars, sun and moon may be symbolic of political rule.

Trumpet 4 – 1/3 of sun moon and stars – this will bring darkness …again possibly cosmic but also possibly political rulers

1st Woe/ Terror”

An Eagle crying “woe” – NLT “terror” -sadness and distress at calamity

Trumpet 5 (9:1-11). A fallen star unlocks the abyss bringing out a locust army with scorpion power under a demon king called destruction. Apollyon may be a play on the name Apollo, the Emperor, Domitian, liked to portray himself as Apollo the Greek god[2]

The star represents a person. This may be a political ruler or a fallen angel.  Enoch 21:6 portrays fallen angels as stars[3] and Jesus says that he saw Satan fall from heaven like a star.

God’s people are sealed and safe

We see terrifying images of these creatures, fierce but beautiful. They are deadly. The pain and suffering is so terrible that people want to die. The sense here is of your worst nightmares coming true.

This is the first woe/terror (9:12(.

The Second Woe

Sixth Trumpet (v13-19). A voice comes  from the altar. These events are being commanded from heaven. The 4 angels at the Euphrates are to be released. Are these the same angels as last ch7. Some, though not all commentators think so.[4]  If so, then this reinforces the point that the 4 corners are metaphorical and represent the outer boundaries of the land. The Euphrates represented both the boundary of Israel and the Roman Empire.[5] People lived in fear of barbarian hordes about to sweep into the Empire bringing destruction.  1/3 of the people are killed by another terrible nightmare army

Application

So, if you were living at the end of the 1st Century, you could simply see events like plagues, natural disasters and war as “just life.” In the same way, we could look around today at political upheaval as establishments collapse and populist rabble leaders gain power, at natural disasters and at the threat of terror and say “It’s just life.”

However, look again and we see something else going on. There is a spiritual war.  Satan is active, wanting to destroy faith.

Look again though and we see God’s hand at work. There’s an important echo here in the seven trumpets of the Seven Days of Creation. Creation brought light and life, order and beauty but now we see this being reversed into chaos, darkness and death.  An important Biblical theme is Creation -De-Creation – Re-Creation (culminating in an everlasting New Creation)

So, when we look around and see what is happen, we are reminded that we live in a fallen world – sin and judgement.

We may see the work of Satan around us but don’t forget that God is greater and is still sovereign. The world is not outside of his authority and power. Remember believers remain sealed.

When we see these things, it should move us to repentance for our own sin

When we see these things, it should move us to compassion and anger at the consequences of evil

When we see these things, it should remind us that Christ is coming soon and move us to Gospel outreach. Gospel outreach happens when we place our hope in the return of the King.

 

  1. Only the Gospel can truly open blind eyes and change hard hearts

Another Echo

The woes here echo the terrible plagues of Egypt, water turns into blood, a terrible hailstorm brings death and destruction and darkness falls.  “As plagues preceded the release of the children of Israel from their Egyptian masters , so plagues will precede the Exodus of the church from hostile political powers.”[6]

Now, remember that in Egypt, Pharaoh and the Egyptians hardened their hearts.  It’s the same here. The response (v21-22) is hard hearts, no repentance, continued idolatry and immorality.  Remember what we said about the seals and the Scroll, it’s not the seals but the Scroll itself that is the heart of the Good News Revelation.

Our community needs the Gospel and so do we at whatever stage we are at. Hard hearts can only be melted by the good news about Jesus.

We harden our hearts when we think that we can live and do as we please (immorality).

We harden our hearts when we trust in our religion (idolatry).

We need the Good News that the Saviour has taken our place and we are justified through faith alone

Conclusion

What is the state of your heart?

What is your response?

[1] Mounce, Revelation, 179.

[2] Mounce, Revelation, 1191.

[3] See Mounce, Revelation, 184.

[4] Mounce, Revelation, 194.

[5] Mounce, Revelation, 194.

[6] Mounce, Revelation, 177.

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