Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Trumpet Blows

1 When the Lamb broke the seventh seal on the scroll, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour. 2 I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and they were given seven trumpets. Revelation 8:1-2 (NLT)

Revelation chapters 6 through 19 describe three series of judgments: seven seals (chapter 6), seven trumpets (chapters 8 and 9), and seven bowls (chapters 15-16). Many biblical scholars identify these three sets of judgments as “Messianic woes,” the “Great Tribulation,” or the “birth pains of the Messianic age.” Both the Old Testament and the New Testament predicted these Messianic judgments on the earth before the Messiah coming (see e.g., Daniel 11:36-12:13; Matthew 24:1-22; Mark 13:1-20; Luke 21:5-24).

The damaging effect of these three sets of judgments increases in intensity from one-fourth of the earth with seal judgments to one-third of the earth with the trumpet judgments. Finally, Revelation chapter 16 describes the last set of judgments as God pours out His final wrath upon the earth, culminating in the Messiah’s return! Interestingly, the trumpet and the bowl judgments involve the same areas – the earth, rivers, heavens, humankind, an army, and angry nations.

Many biblical scholars also note the similarities in these three set of judgments to the plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament (see Exodus chapters 7 through 11). These three sets of judgments (seals, trumpets, and bowls) echo the ten plagues on Egypt (see Exodus 7-11). Similar to the ten plagues on Egypt, the true and living God sent these three series of judgments so that everyone will acknowledge and worship Him as the Almighty God (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 11:17; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 19:6; see also Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:1-2).

Revelation chapters 8 and 9 describe the devastating disasters of God’s wrath against sinful humanity when the trumpet blows! Revelation chapter 8 begins with Jesus the Lamb opening the seventh seal judgment (Revelation 8:1). With the opening of the seventh seal, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour (Revelation 8:1). Many would assume that the end has come after the earth’s punishment with the six prior seal judgments, but nothing happens (see Revelation 6). Instead, “there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour” (Revelation 8:1), and then seven angels who stand before God were given seven trumpets (Revelation 8:2). Anticipating the end, John notices that the prayers of the saints ascending to God (Revelation 8:3-4). Many scholars have suggested that everything in heaven halted so that God may hear the prayers of His people.

With the trumpets, more judgments damage the earth. Seven angels, one after another, blow their trumpets announcing hailstorms with fire and blood descending, volcanic eruptions, blood in the sea, afflictions on the land, the pollution of springs and fountains, eclipses of sun and moon with shooting starts, climaxed by an enormous plague of demonic locusts. In the first four trumpets, God affects one-third of the earth with His divine judgments (Revelation 8:6-12). After the fourth trumpet, a solitary eagle flies through the heavens crying loudly, “Woe, woe, woe to the people of the earth because of the terrible things that will soon happen when the three remaining angels blow their trumpets” (Revelation 8:13, TLB).

Then, Revelation 9 describes two frightening armies God released to judge humankind with the fifth and sixth trumpet judgments. The first army came from the bottomless pit or the Abyss (the underworld) (Revelation 9:1-12), and the second army came from the great Euphrates River in the east (Revelation 9:13-21). Revelation chapter 9 begins with a star falling down to the earth (Revelation 9:1). Many biblical scholars believe this “star” represents Satan or a demonic being. This evil being is given the key to the Abyss or underworld (Revelation 9:1). From the Abyss came creatures beyond human imagination, and God allowed locusts, plagues, and other disasters to torment the people of earth. The war or battle ultimately has origin from Satan, but God allowed the destruction because God is fully in control.

When the fifth angel blows his trumpet, a plague of demonic locusts is released from the Abyss (Revelation 9:3). The leader of these demonic hordes is named “Abaddon” in Hebrew and “Apollyon” in Greek and he is the Destroyer (Revelation 9:11). These demonic locusts were told not to harm the grass, plants, or trees, but only the people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads (Revelation 9:4). Just as God’s people had been exempted from the plagues of Egypt, so now God’s people (Jews and Gentiles) who have God’s seal upon their foreheads will be completely unharmed by these awful creatures of divine judgment (Revelation 9:4-6). 

At Revelation 9:13, God sends a sixth angel to release the four angels bound at the great Euphrates River in the east. These four angels were released at precisely the hour, the day, the month, and the year revealing God’s complete control (Revelation 9:15). Then, a massive army is released numbering 200 million and their horses bring the plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur that destroyed one-third of the human race (Revelation 9:15). Many biblical scholars call the sixth trumpet the battle of Armageddon and this battle has parallel references from Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39.

Horrible though the judgments are the overall intention of the judgments is not to inflict vengeance on humankind but to bring people to repentance. Instead of total destruction, only a third or a fraction of the whole earth is affected by the trumpet judgments (Revelation 9:18). The fraction of the destruction reveals God’s patience and mercy. Despite the torment and devastation, many people of the earth refuse the opportunity to repent and turn to God (Revelation 9:20-21). Because of humankind’s continued stubbornness, God continued the outpouring of His wrath on earth (Revelation chapters 15 and 16).

Revelation identifies the sin to which the unrepentant cling: Idolatry! Sadly, many people refused to worship God, and they continued their demon-worship of idols made of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood (Revelation 9:20). Moreover, many people refused to repent by changing their minds and attitudes about all their murders, sorceries, witchcraft, nor their immorality and theft (Revelation 9:21).

Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Metzger, Bruce. Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

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