Monday, August 1, 2011

Tribulation: The Seven Trumpets

Aaron will present his own bull as a sin offering to purify himself and his family, making them right with the Lord. After he has slaughtered the bull as a sin offering, he will fill an incense burner with burning coals from the altar that stands before the Lord.
Then he will take two handfuls of fragrant powdered incense and will carry the burner and the incense behind the inner curtain. There in the Lord's presence he will put the incense on the burning coals so that a cloud of incense will rise over the Ark's cover --the place of atonement --that rests on the Ark of the Covenant. Lev. 16:11-13 NLT
In the Old Testament, the prayers of God's people would symbolically ascend to heaven through the ceremonial process of burning incense on the altar of the Lord. The smoke that arose from this altar in the temple would always only arise in a steady and straight pillar up towards the heavens, unaffected by the winds. I would imagine that this sign was probably an encouragement to those whose prayers were represented in that offering, a testament to the power and very real presence of the God whom they were praying to.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we pray everyday, believing in faith that those prayers are reaching the "ear" of our Lord. Unlike the Old Testament Jews, we don't have a visible sign that our prayers are being heard. The bride of Christ has prayed for centuries, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven...," wondering how much longer we will have to wait until we will finally receive an answer to that prayer.

During the tribulation, as we learned in the last post, there will be countless martyrs killed by the Antichrist, for their rebellion against him and their faith in Jesus. In the fifth seal that was opened, we heard them cry out to God asking, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Rev. 6:10).

Our heavenly Father has heard every prayer. He has collected every tear. He has wept with us through every heartache. He has answered every prayer, sometimes "yes", sometimes "no", and often times, simply "wait". Well, the wait is almost over. God is finally going to respond to that Matthew 6:10 prayer. His kingdom IS coming to earth. His will, as it has always been in heaven, IS going to be carried out on earth. Christ is coming to rule and to reign. But before that happens, God is going to answer the prayer of the martyrs...
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal on the scroll, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour. I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets.
Then another angel with a gold incense burner came and stood at the altar. And a great amount of incense was given to him to mix with the prayers of God's people as an offering on the gold altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, mixed with the prayers of God's holy people, ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out. Rev. 8:1-4
This scene appears to be similar to the one described in Leviticus, but the angel is about to do something quite different...
Then the angel filled the incense burner with fire from the altar and threw it down upon the earth; and thunder crashed, lightning flashed, and there was a terrible earthquake. Rev. 8:5 (emphasis added)
These prayers aren't just rising up to God. They are being hurled at the earth, resulting in another (we saw the first in the last post) worldwide earthquake. The seven judgments that follow are God's response to our prayers and to the prayers of the martyred tribulation saints for justice to be served against evil on this earth...

The first four trumpets:
  • "Hail and fire mixed with blood" are thrown down to the earth, causing one-third of the earth to be set on fire, burning one-third of all grass and trees. (Rev. 8:7)
  • A "great mountain of fire", perhaps a meteor or some other object from space, is thrown into the sea. One-third of the water in the sea turns to blood, one-third of all oceanic life dies, and one-third of all ships on the sea are destroyed. (Rev. 8:8-9)
  • A "great star", again, perhaps an asteroid, falls from the sky. This judgment causes one-third of all fresh water to be turned bitter, killing many people who drink it. (Rev. 8:10-11)
  • Verse 12 describes the results of the fourth trumpet judgment, stating that one-third of the sun, moon and stars will be struck, causing them to grow dark.
After the unimaginable devastation that these first four judgments have caused, one might think that it can't possibly get any worse. Yet, we see in verse 13 a warning of the judgments that are to follow:
Then I looked, and I heard a single eagle crying loudly as it flew through the air. "Terror, terror, terror to all who belong to this world because of what will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets." 
The fifth trumpet, which brings the first terror (or woe) from Rev. 9:1-12:
  • At this point, God unleashes something from within the earth, which John describes as "locusts". These creatures are not ordinary locusts, however. There is much speculation about what exactly these things are. We may not know for sure what they are, but we do know what they are capable of. Verse 3 says they have "power to sting like scorpions."
  • We are actually first introduced to these creatures not in Revelation, but in Joel chapter 2. We read there that they "charge forward like war horses" (v.4). They "march like warriors and scale city walls like soldiers. Straight forward they march, never breaking rank. They never jostle each other; each moves in exactly the right position. They break through defenses without missing a step. They swarm over the city and run along its walls. They enter all the houses, climbing like thieves through the windows." (v.7-9)
  • Back in Revelation 9, we see that "they were told not to harm the grass or plants or trees, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were told not to kill them but to torture them for five months with pain like the pain of a scorpion sting." (v.5) Five months of torture with no rest and no relief. "In those days people will seek death but will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them!" (v.6)
The sixth trumpet, which brings the second terror from Rev. 9:13-21:
  • In this judgment, we see four demonic beings which are about to be unleashed upon the earth.
  • We read about these demons in Jude 6, where it says, "God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment." These demons are so evil, so violent, so horrific, that God bound them, keeping them from roaming the earth until this point. During the tribulation, they are finally going to be released. Revelation 9:15 says, "Then the four angels (fallen angels or demons) who had been prepared for this hour and day and month and year were turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on earth."
  • As John is witnessing this and recording it, he knows how ridiculous all of this is going to sound. He tells us that these demons are going to be leading an army of 200 million troops. He prefaces this by saying, "I heard the size of their army"(v.16). He's saying, "Look, I know an army of this size has never existed, but I heard it. I saw it. This is real!"
  • These demons and their armies bring with them three plagues of fire, smoke, and burning sulfur, killing one-third of the earth's population. (v.18)
One judgment after another. God's wrath poured out on the earth with even more to follow. And after all of this, the earth's cry will still be one of hatred and blasphemy against God. Even still, the people of earth will not repent...
But the people who did not die in these plagues still refused to repent of their evil deeds and turn to God. They continued to worship demons and idols made of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood --idols that can neither see nor hear nor walk! And they did not repent of their murders or their witchcraft or their sexual immorality or their thefts. Rev. 9:20-21
Through all of this, God is still extending his hand of grace. He is offering every possible opportunity for the lost to repent and turn to Him. In the next post, we'll see some of the incredible ways God is going to declare his message of salvation during the tribulation. Thankfully, some will hear that message and finally receive the Lord as their savior. But sadly, many will not. As we saw in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, we don't have forever to make that decision. God's grace and forgiveness of sin is unlimited to those who repent and call on him. But our number of chances to respond to his call is not unlimited. If we continually reject Jesus, our hearts will become hardened and we will be lost forever.

And those who choose to walk away from God will face the judgments seen here. Soon, we'll take a look at God's FINAL outpouring of wrath, the bowl judgments, which are initiated by the seventh trumpet blast...

No comments:

Post a Comment