Today's Bible Reading: Revelation 8
Selected Biblical Text
1When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
2And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
3Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God's people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. 4The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God's people, went up before God from the angel's hand. 5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. 6Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them. (Rev. 8:1-6 NIV)
Reflecting and Thinking
The opening of the seventh seal ushers in seven trumpets (remember the pattern: 6 + interlude + 1). The trumpets are clearly trumpets of God's judgment. Chapter 8 describes the events that accompany the first four trumpets. The trumpets should be studied carefully and remembered, for the same sequence of judgments will appear again in the bowls of wrath, impacting (1) the earth or land, (2) the sea, (3) the rivers and waters, (4) the heavenly bodies, (5) the seat of Satan, and (6) the Euphrates.
A summary will be helpful. What have we seen? The heavenly vision says God is on the throne and the Lamb is in control of history (Chapters 4-5). The history revealed in the first six seals is controlled by the Lamb as he opens the seals (Chapter 6) -- a history of conquest, war, want, and death, a history of persecution and God's judgment. In an interlude, God's servants are sealed (protected) and the Great Multitude that have already experienced tribulation are seen before God's throne.
In Chapter 8, the seventh seal finalizes the judgment of God communicated in the sixth seal. Thus is introduced the sequence of the trumpets pronouncing judgment on the earth, sea, waters, sky, evil forces from the abyss, and the Euphrates (which introduces good forces from the East), eventually followed by the seventh trumpet of victory (Chapter 11).
The judgment of the trumpets is not total; notice the small fractions. This judgment is partial, perhaps allowing time for repentance. The sad commentary at the end of the sixth trumpet (9:20-21) is that those not affected by the plagues still did not repent.
How does God come in judgment on the world today? Since these descriptions occur in symbolic apocalyptic literature (containing figurative language), how should one apply these symbolic concepts to our world today? How do they apply to our Christian lives at the beginning of the 21st century? Do these judgments come upon everyone, or are some protected (note in the text the references to the inhabitants of the earth and those God is protecting)?
Dear God, we wish that all would turn to you and accept salvation in Christ, but we understand that such will never be, not because of any weakness or incapacity on your part, not because of the impotence of the gospel, but because of the nature of our world and the human condition. We pray for your continued protection, guidance, and strength. Help us share the good news that delivers from judgment. Help us listen and learn. In Jesus' name, Amen.