Trumpet judgments. The first four trumpets are poured out on creation itself – the waters and the land. The effects are devastating on both the earth and mankind. The nature of the calamities is reminiscent of the plagues on Pharaoh back in Exodus, but instead of one nation suffering, it’s worldwide chaos.
Revelation 9-10. The woes begin. The first woe is an angel falling from heaven with a key to the abyss. The fact that the angel is falling, tells us he’s probably not a good guy. That coupled with the realization that he is about to let loose the demons of hell, and I think we have a decent idea of who this angel is. As demons are released, thick, black smoke billows out and some pretty horrific creatures appear…locusts that don’t look like a normal locust and that don’t act like a normal locust. These guys attack the inhabitants of the earth – all those without the mark of God. The scary thing is that folks don’t repent.
The second woe is the release of angels who are bound…probably not good guys either since they are imprisoned…to prepare the way for Armageddon.
Then another angel shows up. A giant angel with one foot on the sea and one on the land. He has a scroll that John is commanded to eat. Tastes sweet as honey, but leaves him bitter. It’s time to re-prophesy. Back to the beginning of the tribulation.
As we mentioned before, the book of Revelation records the crashing together of heaven and earth. And as the veil between the spiritual and physical worlds is ripped asunder. Fantastical creatures appear and all hell breaks loose…shouldn’t surprise us. It’s interesting that the word repent shows up here. The last time we saw it was in Revelation 2-3 with the churches. So who is John seeing here? Definitely unbelievers…but maybe some believers? John doesn’t write the book of Revelation to make us comfortable, but to spur the church on to be the church. May we take seriously the calling to which we have been called and engage the spiritual warfare that rages around us, may we build ourselves up on our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. May we have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
Revelation 4-5. The scene in heaven is a sharp contrast to the condition of the churches in 2-3. If the churches represent God’s hold on planet earth, that hold appears to be tenuous at best. But in heaven…in heaven God’s rule is unquestioned. The imagery and mood of John’s writing fill the reader with dread. Although the heavenly vision pictures the holiness and transcendence of God, of Him who sits on the throne, it’s a holiness and transcendence that is foreign to us. And like John in chapter 1, we feel compelled to fall as dead men before this vision. And although the scene fills us with dread, it truly is an amazingly hope-filled story. It’s the reconciling of heaven and earth. It’s “Thy will being done on earth as it is in heaven”. Shouldn’t surprise us that this collision will result in major collateral damage.
The opening of the seals in Revelation 6 mark the beginning of the process of reconciliation. Jesus appears as the white horse rider coming out conquering and to conquer (the white horse rider bookends the tribulation…here at the beginning in chapter 6 and at the end in chapter 19. The tribulation then is His conquering.). Judgments representing the curses of the covenant designed to bring Israel to repentance follow with the red, black and pale horse riders. The martyrs under the throne (tribulation saints most likely) long for the process of God’s rule being realized on earth as it is in heaven to reach fulfillment. The martyrs are the heroes in the book of Revelation, the overcomers who overcome “because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.” And in the sixth seal the undoing of the work really begins as cataclysmic destruction rocks the earth.
Terrifying visions. Final judgment. Cosmic wreckage. What do we do with it? In a world increasingly similar to the overwhelming chaos that the early church was plunged into, we do the same thing the early church did. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Know for certain that Jesus wins.
Sixty-six years. Daniel had been in captivity for sixty-six years. He had come to Babylon as a young man and now was quite old. Most of his friends were gone…they had died somewhere along the way. Yet Daniel was unwavering in his hope that God would restore the nation. Reading the prophet Jeremiah, he came across the passage where God had mentioned the Jews being in captivity in Babylon for 70 years before judgment came upon the Babylonians. And now the time was near, or so it seemed. So Daniel began to pray, confessing the sins of the nation and asking God to restore them just as Moses had instructed in Deuteronomy. And suddenly an angel appeared, Gabriel in fact. And Daniel’s prayer was answered in a most surprising way.
Daniel 9. First Daniel’s told that 70 7’s had been decreed for his people and the holy city, “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.” It turns out that the 7’s are years, so 70 7’s would be 490 years. According to the following verse, 69 of those 7’s (483 years) would span the time from the rebuilding of the city (time of Nehemiah) to the appearance of the Messiah (Jesus’ triumphal entry). But then Messiah would be cut off by the same folks who would also destroy the city. In the final 7 (tribulation) there would be a covenant made and then broken by a mysterious figure, a prince of these folks, who would then be destroyed.
Good news for Daniel: the righteous rule of God would be established. Bad news: not anytime soon. We are still in the time between the 69th and 70th 7. We’re waiting for the end of transgression and sin, the entrance of everlasting righteousness and the sealing up of prophecy. In some ways these things have been accomplished…in Jesus who is the “Stone cut without hands” and the “Son of Man” who comes up to the Ancient of Days. In His first coming, He made atonement for sin and paved the way for everlasting righteousness for all who believe in Him. But still we wait. We wait for the final revelation of the Son as the White Horse Rider and the ultimate end of sin, death, pain, sorrow, etc. And as we wait, like Daniel, may God find us just as faithful to impact our culture and point others to Him.