#23 The Seventh Seal—the Trumpets
We continue our journey through the book of Revelation and once again we will see the goodness and the severity of God portrayed in graphic detail. Now before we begin I want to get on my soapbox and rant a bit. You see I have a real problem with people diminishing the power of God, taking the pure word of God, the clear scriptures and adulterating them, twisting and stretching them in an effort to explain away the power of God. They use the scriptures that we will be looking today and say, “There’s a logical explanation for what we see here.” And then they use things like pollution, atomic weapons, and in general place man at the center of everything.
As Martin Luther said to Erasmus of Rotterdam so I say to people who humanize the scriptures and do their best to explain away the power of the Almighty, “Your god is too small.” Did God need Nuclear weapons to destroy the pre-flood world of Noah? Did He need them to wipe Sodom and Gomorrah off the map? NO!!!!!!!!! But men explain these things away by saying, “If there was a flood it was a localized flood, just covering a small portion of the corner of some remote nation.” Or “There were volcanic gasses trapped in pockets below the cities of the plains and suddenly they just blew, due to natural causes.”
Why is it that people have such a problem with God actually having the power to do what He wants? I’ll tell you why. It is because if God really is the God who is portrayed in the scriptures, then they are in trouble. So they explain away everything they don’t like, or agree with, or can’t understand. They pick and choose what they want to believe and form a ‘god’ they can control. The Almighty who does what He wants when He wants without consulting man, suddenly becomes a gentleman who would never force Himself on anyone. He is described as so loving, so gentle that He wouldn’t hurt a fly.
This is nothing more than ‘Christianized idolatry.’ The God of the Bible is an awesome, terrifying incredibly powerful, indeed, indescribable Being who created everything that we see and know out of nothing! He merely said, “Let there be!” AND THERE WAS! There was no evolution, no prototypes, no trial runs. God said “LET THERE BE! And creation sprang into existence in obedience to His command! Now we are dealing with the end of the world and again we see the hand of God, the power of God demonstrated.
He created everything and one day He will destroy everything. He the potter has the right and the power over the clay to do with as He pleases. There is no consultation with man just as there was none at the creation. Just as there was no consultation with us as to whether or not we wanted to be saved. No, He just called and His call was His command. And just like Paul we said, Lord what do you want me to do. I praise God that He ‘forced Himself on Me’ because if He hadn’t I would still be lost, still be dead in trespasses and sins, still be destined for hell!
God is the ruler of mankind! Some will find out the hard way; they will die in their sins and will be judged for their rebellion and unbelief. They will be cast, regardless of how they feel about it, into outer darkness into a place of torment more horrible than anything Hollywood could ever dream up in its most gruesome nightmarish movies! (Re 14:11) “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
Others, those who know that they deserve hell, who know that they ought to have been on the left side with the goats, will, because of the grace of God which was bestowed upon them, be ushered into the kingdom of Heaven as recipients of His grace and they, knowing that it is only because of the mercy of God, will sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God almighty and to the Lamb for the great mercy which was bestowed upon them! In either case there is no place for pride! Though sinners now boast of their sinfulness and their looking forward to the ‘party’ they will have with their friends, yet on that great and terrible day they will first try to flee and then having been cast into hell, they will wail and gnash their teeth for the agony of their torment will be unbearable. No party will be going on, only agony in the unquenchable flame!
For believers there is no place for beating our chests and proclaiming our worthiness to be included in the kingdom of Heaven. It is only because He chose us, it is only because He decided to have mercy on mere worms who have been rebellious from the moment we were born that we are partakers of heaven. This is the overwhelming theme of scripture. We read in (Jer 9:24) “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” Paul in (1Co 1:26-31) said “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,
28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” He also said in (2Cor 10:17) “But HE WHO BOASTS IS TO BOAST IN THE LORD. 18 For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends. (Rom 4:6) “just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.”
Finally remember the words of Jesus in (Lu 10:20). The disciples were boasting that demons were subject to them. They were boasting in ‘their power.” But Jesus brought them back down to earth and let them know that they had no power apart from Him; that they were sinning the sin of pride. They had no reason to boast. Instead they should have been humbled that God had stooped to use them and that He should have been given all the glory and honor and praise because HE had done great things! And so Jesus brought them down to earth and showed them the proper perspective that they should have in all of this. He said, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
In our text we see who wields the real power. It is the Lamb of God! He alone was worthy and able to break the seals and unleash the judgments upon the earth. We see him in our text breaking the seventh seal and notice what happens. (Rev 8:1-13) 1When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Why this silence? Could it be that what the denizens of heaven saw was so shocking, so terrible, so awful that heaven itself was speechless? Consider these two observations. First is Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel who says, “The seventh seal will be opened. Immediately there will be a reverent silence throughout heaven, a realization that God is about to move in a tremendous way. All the singing and shouting and praising will stop and everything will become deathly quiet for about a half an hour. Everything will come to a sudden halt in anticipation of the scene that is about to unfold. There are times when the Spirit of God begins to move and a sudden silence sweeps over everything. An awareness of the majesty of God and His presence overwhelms you and all you can do is drop to you knees and worship Him in silence.
There is nothing you can say or do because you are so struck by the reality of who God is and what He has done for you. This I believe is what will happen in heaven as the seventh seal is opened. This will be a silence that speaks louder than any words ever could about the greatness of God and about the events that are going to happen on the earth.”
The second observation comes from William Hendriksen who says, “Why this silence? Was it in order that the prayers of God’s persecuted children on earth might be heard in heaven? We are rather inclined to the view that here as always we must look for the interpretation in Old Testament symbolism. Now, in the prophets the going forth of the Almighty in judgment is again introduced by a reference to silence. We read in (Hab 2:20) “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” Here in Revelation in a similar vein, the silence is introduced to prepare us for the terrible character of the judgments that are about to be related. The silence makes the manifestations of the wrath of God all the more impressive. So fearful and so awful is even this initial retribution which is about to be inflicted upon the wicked that the inhabitants of heaven stand spellbound, lost for a long time, half an hour, in breathless, in silent amazement.”
And then the wheels of judgment begin to roll again in verse 2And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. These trumpets each herald a judgment just like the seven seals. Now I will build on a different aspect of these judgments in the future; that aspect being that there are those who say that these judgments, the seals, the trumpets and the bowls or vials are all happening simultaneously. It is an interesting concept and I will examine it another time. But for now it is enough to look at the judgments individually. Now we saw that each time a seal was broken a judgment fell. In the same way, each time an angel sounds his trumpet, a judgment falls. And we will notice that this round of judgments are more severe than the seals. It is like a crescendo effect as I see it. The world is being devastated by judgments from God and just when they think it couldn’t get any worse, it does. And the reason is that this is the destruction of the world, the end of all things.
In (Zeph 1:17) God says “I will bring distress on men So that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood will be poured out like dust And their flesh like dung. 18 Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD’S wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.”
Now look at verse 3 of our text where we see that “Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand. 5Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake.
Turn back with me to chapter 5 and beginning at verse (9) When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.
Well I think that the ‘little while’ is over now. The answer to the prayers of the saints has come! David in many of the Psalms prayed that God would take vengeance upon his enemies. That doesn’t seem very P.C. today. No today we are to be loving and tolerant. But wasn’t David a man after God’s own heart? And God allowed these prayers for vengeance to be included in the scriptures! Now I don’t want us to all go out from here and pray for the deaths of all those who have ever wronged us. We must place all of our requests before the Throne and leave them there with the final request, “Thy will be done!”
Whether vengeance or blessing, it must be according to the will of God. Here we see that God answered with vengeance, with judgment for it is now the last time, the last hour. The saints of God had prayed that He would avenge them and 5Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth; and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake. 6And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them. During the last days of the Vietnam War there was a discrepancy between the United States and Vietnam. It seemed that the Vietnamese were in a snit and left the peace talks thinking to cause America to cave. Instead of caving we initiated “Operation Rolling Thunder.” This involved sending wave after wave of hundreds of B52 Bombers over Vietnam to drop their loads upon that nation.
These planes flew some 15 to 20 miles up, farther than any fighter jet could follow, farther than any eye could see and too high for any one to hear them coming. Military witnesses who were several miles from the bombsite said that “suddenly the ground began to rock and reel under the power of the blasts. We were literally bombing them back to the Stone Age. And it was the Vietnamese who caved! But this that we are witnessing now in the scriptures puts anything man can do to shame. The destructive power of atomic weapons pales into insignificance when compared to the Almighty. Remember that it is He who upholds all things by the word of His power. Should He but speak the word and everything flies apart. It is also interesting that He doesn’t wipe everything out at once. Even in this holocaust there is mercy. God gave the men of Noah’s day 120 years to repent and they would not! Here too, men are given time to repent but they will not.
Like Jezebel from Thyatira they do not want to repent of their immorality. They love their sin more than their own lives. And so the angels prepared to sound the trumpets of judgment. 7The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, this is reminiscent of the plagues of Egypt…and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. What we are witnessing is destruction on a massive scale, never before seen. And know for certain that men will try their best to explain all of this away with logical explanations. “It is a naturally occurring phenomena that is the result of dis, dat and de oder ting!” And sinful man will eat these explanations up and so soothe their sin burdened consciences. They will sigh with relief that it wasn’t that “God of the Bible” that the Christians warned them about. But as I said, the Judgments from heaven will be rolling over the sin burdened earth in unrivaled fury as God destroys His creation in Judgment upon sinful man for all of his ungodly deeds which he has done in an ungodly manner.
The first woe has come and now the second woe. 8The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, 9and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed. Could it be a meteor? Just speculation on my part but in this book we are seeing God who upholds all things lifting His restraining hand and things are becoming chaotic. Suddenly, a meteor or a comet approaches and there is nothing that we can do! Notice what it says, something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea… God has done this. He has taken one of His created celestial bodies and has thrown it into the sea. Look at the destruction that follows… A third part of the sea became blood. Could this be taken literally?
I only ask you to remember the plague of blood in the Nile river during God’s judgment upon Egypt. A third of life in the sea dies and a third of ships were destroyed (speculation) by the resultant tidal wave.?! Now we understand that we get a lot of food from the sea. So what would happen if one third of the sea became unusable? That’s a lot of food. Included in the destruction of ships would be oil tankers, cruise ships and warships. Do you see how life would be affected by the loss of these things! But there’s more!
We read in verse 10The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters. 11The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter. Again consider this observation from William Hendriksen. “Nowhere will the wicked persecutors of Christianity find real rest or lasting enjoyment. Not only the land and the sea but even the fountains and the rivers during this entire age will be turned against evildoers. John sees a huge star blazing across the sky like a torch. What better symbol could strike terror into the hearts of men? Remember that this huge star, blazing like a torch, is dropped out of the sky. In other words, these judgments upon the inland waters are the acts of God! The newspapers tell of floods and epidemics originating in marshes but they fail to point out that these judgments are God’s warning voices! Wormwood symbolizes sorrow. The meaning is that bitter sorrow will fill the hearts of wicked men because of the plague not to mention that many will die because of drinking the poisoned water!”
But God is not done. 12The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way. How many times have you heard the statement “That’s the natural order of things!” People “set their watches” so to speak by the sun rise. There are some crazy loons who are looking to the moon for everything from wealth to weight loss. Astrologers make life-charts for their followers. But here we see everything that men put their trust in dissolving into chaos. The horror of the days ahead is unimaginable! In fact listen to verse 13Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in mid-heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”
This world of sin is fast coming to a close. I say fast knowing how quickly time passes. It was only yesterday that I was sitting on the floor in North Dakota with a bunch of other kids hollering, “WE WANNA EAT! It was just a moment ago that we arrived in Arizona. Just a twinkling of an eye ago I was in high school. God may not bring about the end for another thousand years but it is only a drop in the bucket. Many years ago I discovered the theme of the book of Revelation. That theme is simply “BE READY!” No one knows when Jesus will return. He Himself gives us wise council concerning what our attitude should be in (Mark 13:10-37)
Be ready! Be living for Him now! Be calling your loved ones to repentance now! Be praying that God would open their eyes now! Let them know that now is the time and today is the day of salvation. The day is coming, and we don’t know when it will be, when it will be too late. In the days of Noah people heard the message of deliverance preached but turned a deaf ear! Then there came a day when God told Noah and his family, “Get in the ark” and He closed the door up after them. And then it was too late to repent! The day of mercy was past. And as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be in the days preceding the coming of Jesus Christ! And on the day He returns, it will be too late!