When the Lamb breaks the seventh seal
the book is ready to be opened and read. It bears repeating: The Lamb –
redemption - makes it possible to open and read the book. Without
redemption history could not have come to this point. Without the Lamb,
God’s New Covenant community – the Church – could not have come into being
on earth. Without the Lamb we wouldn’t have seen the days of grace. Without
the Lamb the book of history would have remained sealed. So mark it and
note it: the Lamb makes it possible to open and read the book. Because
of the Lamb humanity can experience history. God's provision of redemption
has an efficacious purpose for all of humanity. With the breaking of the
seventh seal that purpose comes into focus. So first and formost, without
the Lamb history could not come to this focal point. Thus the Lamb
takes us beyond individual salvation into the realm of redemptive history.
That redemptive history includes the unfolding of the mystery of the Kingdom
of God on earth.
As in every book, there is an introduction. That introduction is given in Revelation 8:1-6. It opens and closes with John drawing our attention to seven angels, with trumpets, who herald events to come.(verse 1&6) In between verses one and six we are given a prologue to the sounding of the seven trumpets. In this prologue John tells of an angel who stands before the altar, holding a censer. He is given incense, which he places into the censer. To this he adds the prayers of all the saints, and offers it upon the golden altar before the throne. As the offering ascends up before God, the angel fills the censer with fire from the altar, then hurls it to earth. Immediately John hears and sees a menagerie of sights and sounds.
We need to note that the angel with the censer acts independently. He does not wait for a command as is the case with other angels in John’s vision. This suggests that he is of a higher rank than the other angels in Revelation. Given this fact implies that this angel is Jesus. He is the answer to the prayers of all the saints. As the answer to those prayers He came to earth. The events lisited here depict His first coming. The voices, thundering, lighting and earthquake are figurative of this first coming, and are indicative of God’s involvement in our world. God committed Himself to redeem humanity. Jesus is that Redeemer. He is the designated Messiah who brings the Kingdom of God into reality on earth.
We have already noted that in Revelation thunder and earthquakes mark God initiated activities. In Revelation 8:5 these two are linked with voices and lighting. This implies that what is referred to here is an intensification of a normal God initiated event. Study the gospels and you will find the intense heavenly activity as Jesus is born, grows up, ministers, dies and is resurrected. In Revelation John uses four words to describe this activity: voices, thunders, lighting and an earthquake. As you study the Gospels and the life of Jesus you will find references to all four of those activities.
In Revelation each of these activities is spoken of in the plural form except for the earthquake. The transition from the Old Testament economy to that of the New Testament was a God ordained event. That transition is fittingly called an earthquake. The Jews had developed a theology that was solidly integrated with their culture and nationality. They expected a Messiah. A Messiah that would deliver them from Roman occupation. In turn He would make them the rulers on earth. Jesus did not fulfill those expectations. Yet Jesus Christ brought God’s Kingdom into reality on this earth. That Kingdom includes both the Gentiles (Romans) and the Jews. Blasphemous theology for the orthodox Jew of Jesus day. Therefore for them the New Covenant established in Jesus Christ was all the more like an earthquake. It came as an absolute contradiction to Jewish theologies exclusiveness, elitism, and nationalism.
With this as a background we are told of the seven trumpets. Trumpets in scripture are instruments which call into battle, they proclaim victory, and they warn of enemy forces. All three of these scenarios are applicable in regard to the seven trumpets. Very definitely the seven trumpets call the Church to attention and to be prepared for action.
The seals speak to and about society as it develops through history. Each seal speaks to a certain aspect of that development. The first four show us the weaknesses that were allowed to infiltrate our four major disciplines. However God will not allow those weaknesses to stymie His purposes and plans for the advancement of His kingdom on earth. Since the Church is the prepetuator of that kingdom, the final three seals focus on the resurgence of the Churches glory. However that glory will not be fully realized without the Church paying heed to the message of the seven trumpets. Therefore if the Church will heed the call of the trumpets she will be able to bring to pass God's desires in history. She has been called to pray: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven".(Matt.6:10) For God’s will to be done on earth the Church must be the first to come under Jesus Christ’s Lordship. The trumpets reveal what is required of the Church in order to hold Jesus Christ as Lord. Thus when the Church understands the message of the trumpets she can act and pray more effectively. For this reason the message of the trumpets is of great importance to the Church as the perpetuator of the kingdom.
of the first trumpet are given in Revelation 8:7 In the description
of the events we are told about hail and fire mixed with blood that is
cast to the earth. Since this does not describe anything like a natural
storm it must be parabolic language. Hail is the result of warm moist
air and cold fronts meeting. That was especially true when the gospel came
up against the cold resistance of Jewish religion. Blood is indicative
of life. Life that came about through the work of redemption.
The third element in John's vision is fire. John the Baptist stated of
Jesus: "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire".(Luke 3:16)
In Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit came, we find tongues of fire resting
on each one.
With the provision of redemption and the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new order is established.(Read Hebrews 1-10) Under this new order one third of the trees and all green grass is burnt up. With the coming of the Messiah and the Kingdom, the worldly kingdoms and structures must give way. Now hear the words of Paul: "For other foundations can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."(1 Cor. 3:11-13)
Obviously Paul is not talking about literal building. However it is just as obvious that Paul is talking about a vitally important aspect of the Churches life. Paul admonishes us to build with certain materials because some materials will not stand the fire. John in like manner indicates that inferior materials were used, during the Old Testament period, in building nations and society. Accordingly one third of the trees and all green grass was burnt.
Let us take a closer look at what John describes.
Jewish theology insisted that the establishment of the heavenly kingdom demanded the restoration of Israel to a leading position in world affairs. Even the disciples of Jesus expected that the nation of Israel would be restored to be a world ruler.(Acts 1:6) To them, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Israel were inseparable. So they asked Jesus if he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6) Jesus tells them it is not for them to know the times or seasons of that occurance. (Acts 1:7) Very directly Jesus told them that they would not experience the restoration of the nation of Israel. (The Greek word translated “know” in Acts 1:7 speaks of knowing by experience. Cp Luke 1:18&24) Instead they were to experience the Holy Spirit as was promised by the Father. After the disciples experience the Holy Spirit the restoration of Israel fades into insignificance. For the disciples the tree of nationalism is burnt. The Gospel of the Kingdom and the kingdom of Israel are no longer synonymous. Let the Church take note!
The burning of all green grass – hay in growth - can be seen in the insistence by Jewish theology that the law with its attending ceremonies must be maintained under the Gospel. But the Holy Spirit also burnt that out of the disciples thoughts and life style. You’ll find a record of that in Acts 10:11-18.
Let us in our generation take heed! What are we building with? In our western culture we see the democratic system and the gospel as inseparable. We attach great importance to our Evangelical, Fundamentalist stance. We give lip service to the universal body of Christ, but stubbornly hold to our denominational structures. Will our doctrinal positions be found wanting? Are we mistaking wood and hay for gold and silver?
The second trumpet
reveals "as it were a great mountain burning with fire."(8:8) "As it were"
indicates this is parabolic language. In previous studies we saw that the
word mountain stands for a belief system. According to Daniel 2:35
the stone that smote the image became a "great mountain". That “great mountain”
is a reference to the gospel. It is the Everest of all mountains. Therefore
under the second trumpet we are shown the effects the gospel has on society.
John portrays the gospel as a burning mountain. That it is burning, may be a reference to the Holy Spirit's work in His Church. John may have also intended to draw a parallel with Israel’s encounter with God at mount Sinai. (Ex. 19) With the establishment of the Gospel we have a greater one than Moses to lead us out of bondage. (Heb.12:18-29) Let us follow Him!
The mountain is cast into the sea, which represents society. How does society respond to the gospel? One third of society responds favorably, which results in life. Life is symbolized in the third part of the sea turning to blood. However not all of society responds favorably. One third of its creatures which had life are said to die. The word translated creature signifies the things created by the sea, those things established and held to be important by society. These things are said to have life, or psyche. ( Compare Strong's #5590 with #2222. The former is used here. while the later is used to speak of the God kind of life. See John 14:6 & 1 John 1:2) Today we think of it as spirit or influence. The text indicates that this spirit or influence is one of death. So these creatures of the sea draw society into death rather than true life.
Added to the death influence of the creatures is a second danger, that of the ships. The word translated "destroyed" points to corruption or decay. It is a participle in form. As a verbal adjective it indicates that the ships are not acted upon, but that they are the ones that do the destroying. So the point that John makes is that the ships are vessels of corruption.
Thus John has given us a complete accounting of the sea. One third of society turns to life, they accept the gospel. However in the other two thirds of society there are influences of death and acts of corruption. The burning mountain did not produce these influences, but it brought them to light. (John 3:18-21)
Acceptance of the gospel by an individual in any given community will very quickly expose and reveal those things which corrupt and are deadly influences. So the sounding of the second trumpet is a warning to all generations. Let us not allow our own creations to take priority over the gospel. For the Kingdom of God to succeed demands that the creatures of death and the ships of corruption can not be allowed to disrupt the gospels message.
` So the first two trumpets emphasis the importance of the Gospel. We must allow the Gospel to purify societies building blocks. Not to do so allows our own creations, and vessels of destruction too hinder the Gospel. If the burning mountain is not given preeminence, the fruition of the kingdom is in jeopardy. Distort the Gospel and its focus and you distort your understanding of the Kingdom. Keep the Gospel in proper focus and society has a sure foundation to build on. That is especially true for the Church. So for the Church to bring the kingdom into proper focus she will need to let go of her own creations, and get rid of the ships of destruction.
The third trumpet reveals
a great star falling from heaven, “burning as it were a lamp”. (v10) It
falls on a third of the rivers and the fountains of water. This star
is called wormwood; meaning bitter. As a result a third of the waters become
bitter, which results in many deaths.
The phrase "burning as it were a lamp" is an informative phrase. In Luke 10:18 Jesus said: "I beheld Satan as lighting fall from heaven." The term translated “lighting” in Luke is a derivative of the term “star” used in Revelation 8:10. This suggests that the two passages are related in what they describe. John’s phrase: “burning as it were a lamp” confirms this. The word lamp is used in the story of the ten virgins in Matthew 25, and it is also used in Revelation 4:5 in reference to the seven Spirits of God. So the word "lamp" indicates light that has a purpose and mission. Thus “burning as it were a lamp” indicates intentional, deliberate deception.
Not only is Satan a deceving light, he is also bitter to the point of being deadly. John presents him as falling on the rivers and fountains of water. The teachings of Jesus tell us what those rivers and fountains symbolize. Jesus speaks of the fountains of water in John 4. In John 4:14 Jesus states: "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." The Greek word translated "well" is the same word as "fountain" in Revelation 8:10. Thus Jesus’ teaching tells us that the “wells of salvation” are the fountains that Satan turned bitter. Jesus also makes reference to the rivers. The rivers are explained in John 7:38. According to John's note in verse 39, receiving the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts was the fulfilment of this.
Thus the third trumpet reveals Satan's primary area of attack against the early Church. Satan endeavors to make the experiences of Salvation and Spirit baptism a bitter experience. When Satan succeeds in doing so he has caused death to come into the body of Christ, as well as society. How did he do so in the early Church? We need not look that far back. We have an example of it in our time. In 1900, when the modern day Pentecostal movement began, many branded the Pentecostal revival as of the devil. Bitterness ran rampant in Christian ranks. It wasn't long after, many people who considered the teaching of Spirit baptism as divisive, began to question the scriptural teaching of Salvation. As a result entire denominations abandoned the teaching of personal salvation. As a result many experienced spiritual death. A sad epitaph to what happens when the church quenches the Holy Spirit, and drinks bitter water.
So the following questions are of utmost importance: Is the Church going to continue letting this bitter star effect her rivers and fountains? Obviously the Church needs to flow in God’s provisions. Most definitely she can not allow her life giving waters to be contaminated by the bitter star called wormwood. John makes it very clear that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) John also tells us that Jesus is the one that baptizes with the Holy Ghost.(John 1:33) So the act of redemption and baptism in the Holy Ghost are the distinct portfolio's of Jesus. Both of those acts are expressed by John in the present participle form, which indicates continuous and/or repeated action by Jesus. Now we know that Jesus is not repeatedly sacrificed for our sins. Hebrews declares that He was offered once to take away our sins. (Heb. 9:25,26,28) So obviously the repeated action that John expresses in the present particle must be seen in the individuals appropriation of that provision. Jesus Himself called the appropriation of redemtion being born again, or being born of the Spirit. (John 3:1-16) The appropriation of the Holy Spirit is called baptism. (Acts 1:5) If the new birth must be appropriated individually the same holds true for the later. You can argue about the doctrinal points, and the scriptural teachings concerning these experiences, but the bottom line is that being born again and Spirit baptism are not appropriated corporately. Don't allow Satan to rob you of that which Jesus Christ has provided for you!
Those who sow negative seed concerning these two cardinal relationship experiences are not working with Jesus Christ but against Him. Bitterness in the body of Christ because of these experiences, or lack of these experiences, comes from the star called wormwood. That star appears as a lamp, but it is not something that lights the Churches path. God has expressly and deliberately shown us, in our time, that it is not denominational doctrine that makes us acceptable to Him. (Read Acts 10, 11) God has and is continuing to pour out His Holy Spirit upon all flesh. Promoting Denominationalism is not part of God’s agenda, why have we made it ours? It's time that we got with God's program and stopped promoting our own!
Do you want to experience what God has provided for you? He wishes to have a personal relationship with you. You enter into relationship with Him by acknowledging Jesus Christ as your Savior. You can do so by saying a simple pray like this: “Jesus I accept you as my Lord and Savior. I acknowledge you as the Lamb of God that took away my sins. I turn from those sins and desire a relationship with you.” After having done so submit to Jesus Christ for your personal baptism in the Holy Spirit. (If you have been baptized in water, you know what it is to submit to someone for baptism. If you haven't been baptized in water, do so. Contact a Christian church or person in your area, they'll help you in this matter.) Submit to Jesus for Spirit baptism by saying a prayer like this: "Jesus I submit to you as my Savior and Lord, and I now ask you to baptize me in the Holy Spirit.” Some of you experienced something immediately, and I venture to say that it was tongues. Allow that to flow, don't quench the flow of the Holy Spirit. Those of you who haven't experienced something immediately don't be discouraged, continue in the attitude of submission. Remember you are not submitting to a doctrine or an experience. You are submitting to Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. As you continue to submit to Him you will experience an enhancement of your relationship with Him. Remember focus on Jesus Christ, because He is the one who initiated the possibility of you having a relationship with God in the first place.
The fourth trumpet reveals the
catastrophic results of drinking from the bitter waters. According to Revelation
8:12, a third part of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened. The sun, represents
the ministers and/or theologians of the Church. The moon represents the
reflectors of that light within the Church. The stars represent the people
or congregations of the Church. According to John's record all of
these have had their light diminished by a third. Not only does the
diminishing of the light effect the day it also effects the night.
I take the word “day”, to refer to the spiritual world. This is balanced
with the word “night” representing the secular world.
I wish to look at this trumpet in a little more detail. In order to do so we need to understand something about theology. Theology concerns doctrine, and doctrine is teaching about how we relate to God and how God relates to us. Thus doctrine or theology is how we explain our relationship with God. However that theology or doctrine does not produce that relationship. Our relationship with God is initiated and provided for by God in Jesus Christ. We simply acknowledge that Jesus is God’s provision for our relationship with Him. When we acknowledge Jesus as Savior we step into that relationship and that step is called faith. In the fourth trumpet it is not the provisions of the relationship, but our understanding of the relationship that is darkened.
We need to note and underline it: Our denominational theologies reflect our understanding of our relationship with God. For example: if I believe that the experience of tongues, or healing, or repentance of sin is not valid for today, then my theology or doctrine teaches that as well. And if my theology is faulty so are my other disciplines. The lack of light in the spiritual realm precludes a lack of light in the secular realm. Remember Revelation 4: all four disciplines are destined to worship God. But if my theology presents me with a faulty understanding of God, all of my disciplines are affected.
The third trumpet showed us the bitterness that Satan was allowed to bring into our lives by disrupting our relationship with God. That disruption in relationship is reflected in our theology. According to the fourth trumpet our theology has been darkened by one third. This darkening of our theology has affected all of society, especially the Church: resulting in the light in our spiritual and secular world to be diminished by a third.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit the Church is being brought back into proper relationship with God. As we grow in that relationship our theological light will also be enhanced and brightened. With the enhancement of light in the spiritual realm come advances in the secular realm. Are we going to welcome that increase in light, or are we going to continue to put up doctrinal barriers? Will we continue to call on the rocks and mountains of our own making to hide us from the passion of the Lamb? We're living in the period of the sixth seal, and this period is marked by revival movements. The Lamb is expressing His passion. What God has provided for the Church will come to fruition. Our response determines our future effectiveness in God’s kingdom. Either the Church in this generation opens herself to increased light and becomes what she was meant to be, or her effectiveness is diminished because of a lack of light.