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Revelation 8:2-9:21: The Trumpets of Warning Print E-mail
Sunday, 22 April 2012

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There is grace in the descriptions of Godís coming judgments in the book of Revelation.  I do not mean that the judgments themselves involve grace.  On the contrary, they are full of the just wrath of God against the sinfulness of humanity.  No, what I mean is that it is gracious of God to warn us of these judgments before they come.  In one sense, all of the temporal judgments that we read about in the Bible (the flood, the plagues on Egypt, even those on individuals such as Ananias and Sapphira), serve as warnings to us and are therefore gracious.  Such judgments are meant to teach us of Godís holy wrath against sin and cause us to turn from sin and trust in Christís payment for them at the cross.  In fact, the one place where we see Godís grace the most, namely the cross, was also a scene of His judgment against sin.  We must not ignore the warnings of coming judgment in the book of Revelation.  Rather, we must repent from our own sins to escape the wrath to come.

Our passage this morning begins the second cycle of seven in Revelation.  We have looked at the seven seals (6:1-8:1) and we are now turning to the seven trumpets (8:2-11:19).  We will look at the blowing of the first six trumpets today.  Next week we will look at the interlude and the blowing of the seventh trumpet.  As we have said before, these cycles of seven are telling us of the days leading up to the final judgment.  The trumpets seem to be describing events that will take place at the end of this age.  Because they do not result in complete destruction (only a third of mankind is actually killed by the sixth trumpet), it seems as if they serve as a warning to the rest of mankind of what is to come.  Likewise, with all of the other temporal judgments in the Bible, they stand as a clear warning to us.  So then, what does John see?

Preparation (8:2-6)

Before the trumpets are actually blown, the second cycle is introduced in 8:2-6.  Look at those verses with me.  Seven angels are given seven trumpets.  Then another angel appears with a censer, which had in it incense and the prayers of all the saints, which go up before God.  Then the angel fills the censer with fire and hurls down judgment upon the earth in the form of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.  What is being communicated here?  It seems that Godís response to His peopleís prayers is to send judgment.  The martyrs cried out for justice at the opening of the fifth seal (6:9-11).  God responds to such prayers with righteous judgment upon the wicked.  Godís people can entrust themselves to Him, even if it means death, knowing that He will bring justice.  The wicked should not take comfort in Godís delay, for He will not let their exploits stand forever.  Rather, they should heed the warning and repent.

Trumpets 1-4 (8:7-13)

The rest of chapter 8 deals with the blowing of the first four trumpets.  Before we look at each of them briefly, let me make a couple of general comments.  First, the first four trumpets are similar to the first four seals in that they stand apart from the remaining three.  We see the similarities of the cycles in this sense.  Second, the first four trumpets bring about judgments that are similar to the plagues of Egypt.  It seems that the passage in Exodus has influenced Johnís description of these first four judgments.  Third, each of these judgments impacts a part of nature, but not the whole of any part (only a third is destroyed), which shows that this is not the final judgment.

So then, what does John see?  The first trumpet describes the destruction of a third of the earth.  Look at 8:7.  Hail and fire fall from heaven and consume a third of the earth, a third of the trees and all the grass (probably referring to the grass that was in the third of the earth which was consumed.)  The second trumpet describes the destruction of a third of the sea.  Look at 8:8-9.  A third of the sea is destroyed by something like a great mountain, burning with fire, which ends up destroying a third of the creatures in the sea and a third of the ships. 

The third trumpet describes the destruction of a third of the rivers and springs.  Look at 8:10-11.  A star named Wormwood falls and pollutes the water so that many die from drinking it.  The name comes from a plant that makes water bitter and undrinkable.  The fourth trumpet describes the destruction of a third of the earthís light.  Look at 8:12.  It is hard to know exactly what is being described here, but the point is that darkness is taking over the earth.  The natural order of land, sea, rivers, and light, are being destroyed.  Such judgments point to the severity of the judgments to come.  They warn of the coming wrath.  But they are not the worst.  We see that worse is still to come in 8:13.  Look at that verse with me.  The last three trumpets are referred to as three woes, which points to their severity and destruction.  What then does John see concerning these woes?

Trumpet 5 (9:1-12)

The description of the fifth judgment is found in 9:1-12.  It begins with the blowing of the trumpet in verses 1-3.  Look at those with me.  Another star is describes who then turns into one who has the key to the abyss, or the bottomless pit, seemingly a place of punishment for demons.  He opens the pit and smoke pours out followed by demonic locusts who have the power of scorpions. 

In verses 4-6 we are told of the terrors that the locusts bring.  Look at those verses with me.  First, we are told that they cannot harm the grass or plants or trees, which is what you expect locusts to destroy, nor are they to destroy those who have the seal, which is a reference to Godís people who are sealed in 7:4.  God is in control of this judgment.  He decides what happens and who is harmed.  In fact, notice the language in verse 1, 3, 4, and 5.  God is sovereign over the locusts.  They are not to kill anyone, but they are to torment all of those who do not have the seal of God for five months (again, the judgment is limited, seemingly to serve as a warning).  The torment will be so severe that people will long to die and not be allowed.

The description of the locusts is found in verses 7-11.  Look at those with me.  People do all kinds of crazy things with this description.  Some think it is an obvious reference to helicopters or tanks.  Yet, that misses the point of the vision, which is to communicate fear and trembling.  These demonic locusts will be unbelievable terrible.  Likewise, they will have a leader whose name means destruction (a possible connection with some of the Roman leaders).  All of this just adds weight and awe to this description of judgment.  You do not want to be found on that day without the seal of God.  You do not want to face this terrible judgment.  This brings an end to the first woe (v. 12), but even worse is to come.

Trumpet 6 (9:13-21)

The sixth trumpet is blown in 9:13-21.  Look at verses 13-16 with me.  At the blowing of the sixth trumpet, the angel is told to release the four angels who are bound at the edge of the Promised Land (the Euphrates river).  Once again we see Godís control, for these angels had been prepared for this very moment.  And what are they going to do?  They were released to kill a third of mankind.  In order to do this, they had an army of 200,000,000 warriors with them.  This army is described in verse 17.  Look at that with me.  The blowing of the fifth trumpet brought demonic locusts and here we see what appears to be a demonic cavalry.  How are they going to kill a third of mankind?  We are told in verses 18-19.  Look at those with me.  They were going to release three plagues: fire, smoke, and sulfur.  These plagues would be deadly.  Can you even imagine what it would be like for a third of mankind to die?  It is a serious warning of the coming judgment.

Thus, with the blowing of the first six trumpets we are repeatedly warned of the wrath to come.  John sees a vision of the destruction of a third of the earth by burning, a third of the sea turned to blood, a third of the rivers and waters, and a third of light.  Then he sees a vision of demonic locusts that wound men for a period of five months followed by a demonic army that kills a third of mankind.  These are terrible events.  The last two describe what it will be like to be Godís enemy on that Day and it will only get worse.

Yet, we are given a sobering picture in 9:20-21.  Look at those verses with me.  All this destruction upon the earth, five months of torment, a third of mankind dead, and people still will not repent.  What a horrible, yet truthful, picture of human depravity.  Men love their sin and their rebellion so much that even after such terrible events they will not repent.  One commentator states: ďNowhere will you find a more accurate picture of sinful humanity pressed to the extreme.  One would think that the terrors of Godís wrath would bring rebels to their knees.  Not so.  Past the point of no return, they respond to greater punishment with increased rebellion.  Such is sinful nature untouched and unmoved by the mercies of God.Ē1  Even with such incredible warnings, men do not repent.

All of this leads to an important question for you this morning: in light of these warnings of Godís coming judgment, will you repent?  The Bible gives us picture after picture of Godís wrath against sin.  It will not go unpunished.  Yet, the good news for us all this morning is that there is still time for us to repent.  God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sin at the cross.  He died in our place and was raised again so that God could justly forgive our sins.  So then, would you turn from your sins today and trust in Christís work for you at the cross?  In light of the coming judgment that we see in this text, how could you afford not to?

Likewise, if you are hear this morning and you have turned from your sins, then you need to be thankful that you have been saved from such depravity.  God has mercifully shown you the ugliness of your sin and where it will lead.  He has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).  He has given us the gift of repentance so that we will not face His judgments that are to come (2 Timothy 2:25b-26).  He has rescued us from the delusion of sin and the depravity of our own wicked hearts.  Thus, may we live lives of thankful obedience to Him.  May we never forget from where He has saved us.  And may we do all that we can to preach the gospel to the lost and call them to repentance and faith in Christ.  Amen.

1 Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation NICNT, Rev. ed (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1998), p. 193.

~ William Marshall ~

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