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A. Seven seals followed by seven trumpets: last week: fifth, this week: the sixth trumpet.
B. Revelation 9:13-21 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound. 20 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, 21 nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
1. The sixth angel blew his trumpet, John hears a voice coming from the golden altar which is before God. The voice tells the angel to release four angels who are bound at the river Euphrates. So he releases these four angels, who had been prepared for this hour, to kill a third of mankind. As a result, a massive army of 200 million mounted troops is assembled. And the horses and their riders wore breastplates the color of fire, sapphire and sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and out of the horses’ mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur, killing a third of mankind. The power of the horses was in their mouths, but also in their tails, for their tails were like serpent heads, and by them they wound people. The rest of mankind, the other two-thirds, the ones not killed by these plagues, did not repent of their works or give up worshiping demons and idols, nor did they repent of their murder or sorcery or their sexual immorality or their thievery.
II. Let’s talk about where this fits.
A. The first four seals seem to describe the calamities which characterize this age between the first and second comings of Christ.
B. The fifth, sixth and seventh seals depicted the saints in heaven waiting for the judgment day, the terror of the wicked at the beginning of the judgment day, and the silent half hour at the dawn of the last day.
C. Similar to the first four seals, the first four trumpets describe cosmic calamities which characterize the present age.
D. But then the fifth trumpet presents us with difficulties. It doesn’t fit in so easily as a description of the character of this age we are presently in. And it raised the issue of a brief time right before the return of Christ when Satan will be unleashed and things will temporarily get much worse.
E. And before we go any farther, I’d like to talk a little more about this brief time before the end.
1. After graduating from high school early, my son Josiah spent most of a gap year on an island in Honduras, with a missionary family. Since it was detached from the mainland, there was no police and virtually no law enforcement on this island. So, when a young man stole a lot of Josiah’s stuff, he gathered together a large group of friends to recover his things. They went to the house where the thief lived, and confronted him. The thief was not so foolish to resist the group, and so Josiah was able to gather all of his stuff from the thief’s room while they all stood by.
2. Well, Jesus tells a similar story in Matthew 12:29, when He’s talking about why He casts out demons. “How can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”
a. Here Jesus speaks of Satan as a strong man who rules the house of the world. And He speaks of His own coming into the world as entering this strong man’s house to take stuff which was His.
b. And, in order to capture His people from this strong but evil person, He must first tie Him up.
c. So, in this age Jesus has bound/tied up Satan in order to retrieve His treasures.
3. We also read about this in Luke 11:20-22, where Jesus says, “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.”
a. Again, Satan is the strong man here. Jesus is the stronger One who comes into Satan’s house and overpowers him, so that He can plunder his house.
4. So, Jesus is in the business of plundering Satan’s house. And, guess what – we are the plunder!!
a. We were the devil's prey. We were his slaves. We were his victims.
b. But now a far greater power has broken in. Jesus has come to undo the work of the devil.
c. Jesus restrains the powers of the evil one so He might snatch us from his control.
5. Now, this brings us to Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10 “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. [This is probably referring to Jesus, who is depicted as an angel in Rev.10 and says Himself that He has the key to death & Hades in 1:18.] 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him (same Greek word for bind as in Mt.12:29) for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while... 7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
6. Here we see Jesus seizing the devil and binding him for a thousand years – to break Satan’s hold on the nations so he could no longer hold them in the grip of his deception.
7. So, what does “to deceive the nations” mean in Rev.20?
a. In the OT, God called Israel to be His chosen people. Unlike all the other peoples on earth, God graciously gave them His word (Rom.3:1-2).
b. All the others people are earth were kept in the dark, under the deceptive power of the evil one.
8. Until Jesus came! Until Jesus came!
a. God is the God who made all people, and the fact is, it is too small a thing for just one people to worship Him (Is.49:6). So, in sending Jesus, He opened the way for every people group on earth to hear & receive His word.
b. And this made it necessary to get rid of the one who had been deceiving the other nations, and to bind that strong man, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan for all the years necessary for plundering the elect from the strong man’s house.
9. But once the process of gathering that plunder is over, Satan will be released for a brief time to deceive the nations once more, which will lead to a great attack on the people of Jesus, though He will rescue them.
F. Since many commentators associate the fifth trumpet with this present age, I want to remind you why I’ve concluded that it instead refers to this brief time of Satan’s release near the end. Why? Because whatever the fifth trumpet refers to, probably the sixth trumpet also refers to.
1. It begins with the fact that the fifth trumpet only lasts for five months (Rev.9:5,10). We can’t just ignore this. Five months is too brief a time to describe either the present age or the eternity to come. But it does fit in nicely with the what Rev.20:3 calls “a little while” when Satan is released.
2. In Rev.8:13 the fifth trumpet is clumped with trumpets 6 & 7 as being significantly worse than the first four. The first four, you remember, depict this present age. Something has changed from the first four trumpets.
3. The fifth trumpet is so bad that the people want to die. Today, some people want to die, but not many. These folks not only want to die, for some reason they can’t. This isn’t Kansas anymore.
G. And now, there are several things which incline me to think that the sixth trumpet, like the fifth, depicts something which happens during the brief period of evil before the end.
1. The language of v.15 is very similar to the release of Satan in Rev.20:1-10. The four angels (which seem to be wicked angels who have been restrained against their will) are said to be released, just like the fallen angel, Satan, is released to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth in Rev.20. And the Greek word for release is the same in both places.
2. This sixth trumpet: though it is so severe that a third of mankind is killed by it, it doesn’t bring about the conversion or repentance of any (Rev.9:20). That sounds very much like Rev.20:1-10 when Satan is reenabled to deceive the nations for a brief time (Rev.20:3).
3. The fifth and sixth seals were not about life in this present age, but about the saints in heaven and about the beginning of the judgment day, so it makes sense that the fifth and sixth trumpets would also not be about this present age.
4. — And, finally, the statement that the four angels were bound at the great river Euphrates reminds us of all the prophecies which talk about God’s city being surrounded by the wicked armies of the earth on the last day. When Jerusalem was attacked, it was usually from the Euphrates River, from Assyria or Babylon, whose armies came from the north to avoid walking through the desert (Is.7:20, 8:7-8; Jer.1:14-15, 4:6-13, 6:11&22, 10:22; Ezek.38:6&15, 39:22). This fits perfectly with Rev.20, which says that Satan will gather the nations for battle against the beloved city.
H. So, as I see it, the sixth trumpet speaks of a time right before the Lord’s return, when Satan will be unleashed.
1. Last week in the fifth trumpet we saw that during this time, Satan will afflict non-believers with psychological and spiritual torment.
2. And now the sixth trumpet tells us that during these days mankind will also be afflicted in some way which will kill a large chunk of the population, though not a majority.
3. It might be war, or perhaps genocide, or even disease; it might be something else.
4. Beale thinks this is referring to the spiritual death caused by deception, and he might be right. But if that’s true, why does it only kill one third, and how does it kill some and wound others?
5. Whatever it’s referring to, it paints this period as a hellish one.
I. We don’t know for sure that the people of God are immune to the plagues of the sixth trumpet – as they were to the fifth trumpet – because the sixth trumpet does not explicitly say that, though some presume that the statement in the fifth trumpet covers the sixth trumpet as well.
1. But one thing we know for sure is that God’s people are sealed by Him in such a way that they’re protected from harm – even if they die, even if their loved ones reject them, even if they are bedridden in intense pain.
III. So, what use can we make of this in our lives?
A. First, let’s think more about the future unleashing of Satan before the end.
1. We said last week that we are reliving the story of the gospel; we are reliving the story of Christ.
2. Just as Jesus faced the day of darkness right culminating in the cross, so the body of Christ will face a day of darkness before its day of resurrection.
3. As the new Israel, we are also reliving the life of Israel in the Exodus.
a. The last plague was the worst, and the final scene was the scariest, where not only were their enemies mistreating them, but had them surrounded and wanted to wipe them out – right before God intervened and parted the sea, destroying their enemies.
4. This is just good drama – like show business.
a. Listen to Romans 9:17: The Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (quoting Exod.9:16)
b. “that I might show my power in you”
c. The greater the enemy, the greater the victory. The darker the darkness, the brighter the light when it comes on.
5. It’s so good for us to know this. It’s so good for us to know that things are going to get worse near the end.
a. Because it’s so easy for us to get discouraged when things in the world are moving downhill, as if we’re getting farther from the kingdom, when in actuality, we are getting closer to the kingdom.
B. The restrainer
1. In Rev.9:14-15 we read that the four evil angels are bound before they are finally released.
2. In Rev.20, we see that Satan is bound with a great chain.
3. We also read of this power which presently restrains evil in 2Thes.2:3-7, “That day (of the Lord’s coming - see v.1) will not come, unless the rebellion comes first (Could ‘the rebellion’ be the brief time when Satan is unleashed?), and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God... 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.”
4. So, what is this restraining power holding back the forces of evil in the world? What is the dam? What are the chains? Who’s the one who is now restraining this man of lawlessness who opposes God and exalts himself, this mystery of lawlessness?
a. Well, who could it be but the HS?
5. And one day, the restraint will be removed, taken out of the way – for a brief time. And then the face of evil will be seen in all its ugliness.
1. We’re told in v.20 that even after all the trauma their idolatry caused them, even after watching so many of their friends and family die as a result of their idolatry, the survivors did not give up worshiping their idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood, which cannot see, hear or walk.
2. Man’s attachment to idols is amazing!
3. Even though it’s killing him, the drunk clings to his bottle. Even though drugs have turned him into a shadow of his former self, the addict just wants more and more.
4. This is the nature of idolatry. We cling to our idols. We refuse to let them go. We think they are our source of life.
5. And behind it all is the smiling deceiver, who specializes in fooling people into turning their natural inclination to worship to idols instead of God.
6. We also see here that idolatry manifests itself in other sins: “murders, sorceries, sexual immorality, theft.” Idolatry is at the heart of every sin.
7. Beale says, “Idols are one of the main instruments used by the forces of darkness to keep people in darkness.”
1. We’re told here in v.20 that those who survive the plagues of the sixth seal do not repent of their evil deeds or their idolatries. In spite of such horrific experiences, no one repented!
2. It reminds us that repentance is a gift of God. It is not something people can do on their own. It is not something people can incite other people to do on their own.
a. 2Timothy 2:24-26 “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
3. Even though God often uses things like pain or love or miracles to provoke repentance, those things are never enough on their own. Repentance comes only by the work of God.
4. Remember Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. The rich man asked to be sent back to his brothers to warn them of the coming judgment, and Abraham said, “If they don’t listen to Moses & the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone rises from the dead.”
5. Repentance should be celebrated when it’s given and prayed for it when it’s not.
E. There’s another good reminder here about God’s sovereignty over the world. All of this is happening at His direction. He’s the One whose voice from the altar orders the release of the four angels in Rev.9:13. And not only is it His directive, it is apparently in answer to the prayers of the saints who are before the altar in the fifth seal (6:9-10).
1. The seals and the trumpets contain horrific things, but they’re all ordered from the throne of God.
2. It may appear that all hell has broken loose, but those who know and trust God’s word will see God’s plan unfolding and sing hymns from prison. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” (Ps.23:5).
3. Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”