Revelation Devotion #17
– Pastor Timothy
To read the book of Revelation through the lens of worship calls for God’s people to understand their place in redemptive history. As previously outlined, Christ leads His church into battle so that we might share the gospel with all people groups from all tribes, tongues, and theologies.
Nevertheless, doing so in a fallen, idolatrous world does not come without trials and tribulations. Jesus, in fact, plainly states, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Believers throughout the church age should not, therefore, envision a life without difficulty. Followers of Jesus continue to suffer martyrdom and marginalization as a consequence of their faith.
The opening of the fifth seal (cf. Revelation 6:9-10) demonstrates these saints crying out for justice. That, too, is an act of worship. God calls for His people to pray — first that individuals would repent and turn from their iniquity, but then also for a holy and righteous Judge to hold those persons accountable who refuse to do so.
Revelation 8:1-5 identifies practically that the prayers of Christ-followers carry tremendous weight. The sovereign Lord uses the prayers of His people to affect the outcome of history. Best that we pray!
After an interlude in chapter 7, John highlights the opening of the seventh seal in 8:1. Silence in heaven “for about a half hour” follows. The time is not literal but symbolic of a climatic event: an event that is delayed for some reason.
Trying to interpret the purpose or period of this delay is entirely speculative, but the seventh seal definitely reveals divine judgment is at hand (compare 8:5 with Revelation 11:19 and 16:18). We find a similar instance of God from His holy temple commanding the earth to be silent before an outbreak of judgment in Habakkuk 2:20-3:15. Although God’s means of judgment confounds His prophet, the prayers of Habakkuk were answered (cf. Habakkuk 1:2-4).
Take encouragement in knowing that God hears the prayers of His people for justice (compare Revelation 8:4 with Psalm 141:1-2).
The trumpet judgments that follow in Revelation 8:6-9:21 do not extend from the 7th seal, but they provide a different picture of God’s judgments. Whereas the church primarily endures persecution with the opening of the first five seals, the trumpet judgments intend to wake up an unbelieving world until the 7th trumpet sounds, at which point no chance for repentance exists (cf. 11:15-19).
This especially makes sense when one notices how the initial trumpet blasts and their woes match with plagues God sent upon Egypt. In the exodus, each plague was an attack on an Egyptian god, with the last two directly against their chief god Amun-Ra.
The ninth plague caused darkness to fall over the sun god Ra (see 8:12), which was thought to make Egypt’s supreme-creator god Amun more potent.The Egyptians believed Amun-Ra ruled over fertility and life, and they celebrated this false god in the month of Nisan. Not coincidentally, that is precisely the time of the 10th plague when the angel of death claimed all firstborn sons from home’s without lamb’s blood placed on the top and sides of their doorframe. (So much for ruling over fertility and life).
The idolatrous worship of Amun-Ra could not save those who paid allegiance to it; rather, the Egyptians insistence on following this false god led only to pain, suffering, and death (see 9:1-19). In this way, the Lord was not only judging Egypt for their harsh enslavement/persecution of the Hebrew people, He was also ruling against their immoral and idolatrous society.
The judgment that preceded the deliverance of God’s people out of Egypt foreshadows a fuller redemption. Judgment fell again when darkness covered the land for three hours and God’s only begotten Son was slain (cf. Matthew 27:45). In both cases, it was God the Father who carried out the sentencing (see Exodus 12:12-13; cf. Isaiah 53:10 and Matthew 27:46).
Just as Pharaoh had an opportunity to respond to the one true God in the midst of plagues, an immoral and idolatrous society that persecutes the church has a chance in these last days to receive the covering of the blood of the Passover Lamb at Calvary. The trumpet judgments, which analogously describe sufferings that result from ecological disasters as well as evil demonstrations and their consequences, intend to point people to repentance before God’s final judgment unfolds.
Don’t miss the practical implications of this. The trumpet judgments are preliminary and partial, as reflected by the repetition of one-third (found thirteen times in 8:7-12, and again in 9:15, 18). This runs consistent with the prophetic tradition that reflects the long-suffering nature of God, who calls forth judgment out of a desire for sinners to repent (cf. Isaiah 19:22; Amos 4:6-11; 2 Peter 3:9).
Consequently, of great importance, Revelation makes known that the cataclysmic events throughout our world’s history have divine purposes, which are theologically and spiritually relevant to believers as well as unbelievers. G. K. Beale contends, “How one responds to such events is one indication of whether or not a person has a genuine saving relationship to God.”
Do these plagues that fall upon a sin-stained world lead to our loving and leaning on God more firmly, or to our loathing and leaving God more easily?
Sadly, Revelation 9:20-21 reveals that a host of idolatrous and immoral people — “earth-dwellers” — will harden their hearts like Pharaoh, refusing to respond to the judgments that God sends to awaken them unto His grace and truth.