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Angels, Prayers, Trumpets


Apr 23, 2023

by: Jack Lash Series: Revelation | Category: Bible Stories Which Teach about Living in This World | Scripture: Revelation 8:2–12

I. Introduction
A. After three weeks off for our retreat, for Easter, and for our trip to China last week, we are back in the book of Revelation.
B. And let me take this opportunity to remind you that we are working through difficult material which requires extra effort from all of us. And the more you can do to familiarize yourself with the week’s passage ahead of time, the more you’re going to get out of each of these sermons.
1. I do not want anyone to feel lost, and I’m working hard to try to understand and explain.
2. But you can help me by helping yourself. Each week’s passage is listed on our website and I urge you to stay engaged as much as you can in where we’ve been, where we are &where we’re going.
C. Revelation 8:2–12 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. 3 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, 4 and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5 Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. 6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them. 7 The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. 8 The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood. 9 A third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed. 10 The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. 11 The name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters became wormwood, and many people died from the water, because it had been made bitter. 12 The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.
II. Before we dive into this passage, there are six parts of Revelation we’ve already covered which we need to review because they’re very important to today’s passage.
A. The vision in Rev.1:12-13 of Jesus as the high priest, serving in the temple.
1. After introducing the seven angels here in Rev.8:2, we are told of another angel standing at the altar offering incense, which was the prayers of the saints.
2. This other angel – in Rev.8:3 – may well be Jesus.
3. This angel is serving in the heavenly temple like a priest – just like Jesus in Rev.1.
4. And later Jesus is referred to as an angel in Rev.10:1 (and the same is implied in Rev.14:14ff.).
5. And this would make sense, because this angel is receiving the prayers of the saints and then, in response to them, casting these judgments upon the earth, signaled by the seven trumpets.
B. In Rev.1:20 we are told about the seven angels of the seven churches. And then each of the seven letters are written to the angel of that church.
1. Well, here John apparently mentions them again: “Then I saw THE seven angels who stand before God.”
2. So, these seven angels seem to be the angels of the seven churches from Rev.1:20.
C. The opening of the seven seals
1. Before the retreat, we finished the opening of the seven seals. Today we begin the seven trumpets.
2. We saw that the openings of the seven seals were initiated by the Lamb, and came by order of the throne of God.
3. Now, similarly, the seven trumpets are blown by the seven angels, in response to the prayers of the saints.
4. We talked about the cyclical nature of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls, how each tells us a similar story and seems to recapitulate what goes before.
5. Especially, there is a lot of parallel between the first four trumpets and the first four seals.
6. The first four trumpets, then, like the first four seals, seem to describe what God has decreed to happen during the period of time between the first and the final comings of Christ.
7. Remember the first four seals depicted four horsemen wreaking havoc upon the earth in the form of conflict, famine, disease and death.
8. And now similarly, these first four trumpets depict more havoc wreaked upon the earth, this time more in the language of natural disasters: hail/lightning/forest fires/volcano?/asteroid?/darkness.
9. The first four seals inform us that life on earth during this era will be filled with difficulties.
10. But the first four trumpets give us more information. They not only reaffirm the reality of earthly hardships, but take it further by depicting the beginning of the deconstruction of the cosmos.
a. And they offer us more understanding of God’s strategy & purpose for these hardships.
D. In the fifth seal, we saw the prayer of the saints before the altar in heaven in Rev.6:9-11, "How long before You avenge our blood?"
1. These prayers are referred to again here in Revelation 8:3-4.
2. In fact, when the blowing of the four trumpets follows, it seems that these judgments they describe come as a result of these prayers of the saints.
3. So, not only are the calamities of the world ultimately a result of God’s decree, but they from Him as the answer to the prayers of His people.
E. In the sixth seal, describing the final judgment day, “the sun became black, the full moon became like blood, the stars of the sky fell to the earth, and the sky vanished like a scroll” (Rev.6:12-14).
1. And then here two chapters later, in the fourth trumpet, “a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night.”
2. So, in chapter six the light of these bodies is completely eliminated, and then two chapters later in chapter 8 we have the partial elimination of their light.
3. This shows us that these visions are not laid out for us in chronological order. The order they come to us in the book of Revelation is not the order in which they ultimately occur in history.
4. This reaffirms this cyclical nature of this book.
5. If a person sat down to read the NT for the first time and read about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ in Matthew, and then began to read Mark, he would be wrong to assume that the things which happened early in the book of Mark happened after the end of Matthew. No, each gospel starts the story over, each gospel is a new cycle. All four tell the same basic story, but highlight different things. That’s the way it is with these cycles in the book of Revelation.
F. Here’s another way we see this: The people of God are sealed in Rev.7:1-8, protecting them from the harmful effects of the plagues brought down on the earth, the sea and the trees (Rev.7:3).
1. But the opening of the seven seals never mentions plagues on the sea or the trees, only plagues on the earth. Not until the seven trumpets, which we read after the sealing of the saints, are there plagues on the sea and trees.
2. So, again we see that this is not linear, or laid out in chronological order. The sealing of the saints covers not only the calamities of the seven seals, but also the calamities of the seven trumpets.
3. Believers are protected from it all. Believers suffer just like the people of earth. But, unlike the world, they are protected from any harm done by the suffering.
III. Interpretation
A. So, you see that these other passages are crucial in interpreting the trumpets in Rev.8 rightly.
B. But there are other passages in Scripture which are important too. Often there is a Scripture key which is needed to unlock a given passage.
1. When Jesus said in John 1:51,“You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man,” we cannot understand that unless we know the story of Jacob’s ladder in Gen.28:10ff.
2. And a young believer might not know about this connection, and needs a more seasoned believer to point it out. And once it’s pointed out, “AHA! Now it makes sense!”
C. This is especially true of the book of Revelation. And for this passage, there are actually at least two OT stories which this passage itself directs us to in order to understand it:
1. The story of the sounding of trumpets on the seventh day in the story of Jericho in Joshua 6.
2. The story of the ten plagues poured out on Egypt through Moses in Exodus 7-10.
D. In the summer of 2021, I preached a series of 11 sermons on OT stories which help us to realize where we are in history and what our calling is at this point in God’s story.
1. We talked about Noah’s ark, Abraham, Moses, Israel in the wilderness, etc.
2. There are many other stories we could have talked about, of course, like the story of the ten plagues and the story of Joshua and Jericho.
E. But our passage today makes use of both of these stories, signaling to us that these two stories give us guidance and help us to understand what is happening in the world around us and how we’re supposed to be thinking about our lives in this present context.
F. So, let’s do that, let’s think about the first four trumpets in Rev.8 in light of the story of the conquering of Jericho and the story of the Ten Plagues.
IV. Jericho
A. You remember what happened in Jericho. God told His people Israel to walk around the city each day for six days, and then on the seventh day, they were to walk around it seven times, and seven priests were to blow seven trumpets, and the wall of the city would fall down flat.
B. By giving John this vision of the blowing of seven trumpets, God is drawing our attention back to this story of what happened at Jericho, and telling us that we are in a similar situation as the Israelites who were surrounding Jericho. So, how is our situation similar?
1. The city (the world) is hostile and unwelcoming to God and His people.
2. But we are not merely trying to survive, we are seeking God’s kingdom (Matt.6:33) and praying for His Kingdom to come (Matt.6:10).
3. And so we’re not off hiding somewhere far from Jericho, like the 10 spies wanted to do, we are surrounding it and trusting the Lord to subdue it to Himself.
C. In Matt.16:18, Jesus said He’d build His church & the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
1. This implies the church is on the offensive, because it’s not the ARROWS and SWORDS of hell which will not prevail against the church, it is the GATES of hell.
2. We are in a battle and we are on the offense. Or, to say it better, Jesus is the new &greater Joshua.
3. The battle is the Lord’s. As at Jericho, we do not fight against flesh and blood, but we wait on the Lord to fight for us from heaven.
4. In fact, the name Jesus is YESUS in Greek, which is Greek for the Hebrew name Yeshua, the Hebrew version of Joshua. So, Joshua and Jesus are the same name, one is Hebrew & one Greek.
D. And just as the people of Jericho were petrified by the Israelites and what they were doing (Joshua 2:9), so the people of the world are not just antagonistic toward Jesus and His people. They are afraid of Jesus and His people. And they’re right to be. Their city is about to be ruined.
1. The world shouldn’t be afraid of Christians trying to pass laws based on Biblical morality. They should be afraid of Christians proclaiming the gospel and praying that His kingdom would come.
E. Like the first six trips around Jericho and the first six trumpet blasts by the seven priest, the first six trumpets in Rev.8-9 are preliminary punishments, anticipating the final judgment coming on the seventh day (Rev.11:15-19). Jesus said they are like birth pangs, which anticipate and prepare for a birth, but are not actually the birth (Matt.24:6-8).
F. And at the end of the seven days, the trumpet will sound (Matt.24:30-31; 1Cor.15:52; 1Thes.4:16), the walls of the great city of the world will fall down, & Yeshua will return & every knee will bow.
G. This gives us great comfort and reassurance. For the present disturbances in the world are not a sign that events are out of God’s control, but are merely the beginning of a great triumph & a new birth.
V. Ten plagues
A. A few generations after Joseph rescued Egypt from seven years of famine, the Egyptians forgot about Joseph and enslaved his people, the Israelites. Then, 400 years later, God heard the cries of His suffering people and raised up Moses to deliver them from Egypt.
1. When Moses came to confront Pharaoh and call Him to let the people go, Pharaoh refused.
2. So, God sent ten plagues upon Egypt, all building up to the grand finale at the Red Sea, where God delivered His people through the sea while destroying the Egyptians in the same sea.
B. So, what do the ten plagues have to do with our passage? Well, it seems obvious that the first five trumpets in Rev.8-9 are patterned after the plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians. There’s hail & fire, the sea turned to blood, fish dying, undrinkable water, darkness, and locust.
C. So, again, God seems to be directing our attention to the story of the ten plagues here, to help us interpret this passage about the judgments which come upon the world when the first trumpets are blown. He wants us to see that in one sense we are reliving the story of the Exodus.
1. Just as God heard the cries of His people Israel in Egypt, raised up Moses to deliver them, and used the ten plagues to do so, in our era God has again heard the prayers of His suffering people and – in answer to those prayers – has raised up a new and great Moses to deliver them, and is bringing plagues against their enemies as part of the process of deliverance.
2. Just as the Israelites would not have been delivered from slavery without the ten plagues, just as Paul and Silas would not have been delivered from prison without the earthquake (Acts 16:26-33), so we will not be delivered without these calamities being poured out upon the earth.
3. The world’s calamities are not just random tragedies occurring to innocent people. They are part of God’s program of judgment of the world, and the deliverance of His people and triumph of His own power and glory.
D. The story of God’s triumph through Moses at the Exodus was not smooth and easy. Moses struggled terribly at times, the people actually resented Moses at times because his efforts looked like they were causing more problems than they were solving.
1. But now from our vantage point, we see how it all makes sense, and we say, “Wow! What a fantastic victory!”
2. But this beautiful process of deliverance and triumph took all kinds of patience, and endurance, and tenacity, and faith that God knew what He was doing, and that He would come through.
E. And so it is with us. The Lord is in the process of working out a dramatic, triumphant victory.
1. But like every battle, it’s messy and stressful from the point of view of soldiers on the battlefield.
2. And it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.
3. In order for this trying process to be brought to its glorious end, we must stand ready to be disturbed. God doesn’t allow His people to dwell in ease and pleasantness. He keeps disturbing the peace. God loves us too much to let us dwell in a cocoon of earthly security.
4. If He did, we would feel satisfied with the now. And satisfaction with the now is like drinking poison; it is deadly. So, God keeps intruding into our satisfaction, acting against it, undermining it, compromising it, at times ruining it.
a. Shaking kids in the car to prevent them from falling asleep. Sometimes they get angry.
5. And it’s so easy when that happens to think that God is against us. But God is very much FOR us; He’s just against our finding satisfaction in this earthly life. He knows that if we are comfortable in our lives, we will have no reason to hope for a greater life.
6. Jesus said it’s hard for the rich to enter the kingdom. It’s because they’re enjoying the moment. They are not crying out for relief. They don’t want things to change; they want to preserve the status quo. The only thing to be done is to threaten their idols and endanger their earthly security.
7. He must disturb us so that we don’t forget the danger of the coming angel of death, so that we don’t forget that our only hope is in the fact that our doors are marked with the lamb’s blood – or we will suffer the same fate as our unbelieving neighbors.
F. In order to prepare us for the grand new creation at the end of the book (21:1ff.), the first four trumpets involve the old creation being systematically undone or “de-created.”
1. When people depend on the world and its resources for their satisfaction, they need to be shown that ultimately these things are insecure and unstable.
2. And so, because man has worshiped the creation instead of the Creator, the Creator is ruining the creation. He is ruining man’s home, man’s life, man’s idol-factory.
3. Since mankind would not accept the light of the word of God, God is removing their lights and plunging the world into even greater darkness. Because they rejected Him, He will reject them and withdraw the light of His presence and word from them.
G. We complain about the troubles of the world, but ironically they are in fact God’s answers to our prayers (and to our needs) – just like when the Israelites complained about the troubles stirred up by the arrival of Moses, even though they were the beginning of the answer to their prayers!
VI. Conclusion
A. In our adult SS series, Paul David Tripp has been emphasizing the fact that all of us are interpreters. And that God in His word has given us an interpretive guide to our lives.
B. So, the issue is not what’s happening in your life or mine. That’s God’s business. The issue for us is whether we are interpreting it rightly, according to the word of God.
C. The first four trumpets in Rev.8, along with the stories of Jericho and the Ten Plagues give us much help in understanding what’s happening in the world and in our own lives.
D. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.