A new way of seeing

Revelation 8:13 – 9:12 (NIV):  “As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in mid-air call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” 

The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss.

And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.

They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).

The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.”

The eagle sets the scene for the next three trumpets – from his vantage point, he can see the landscape of the terrible woes, which are about to be released. As Selwyn states, these scenes are intended to show the terrible consequences of a life that resists the overtures of God’s mercy.

The people who are harmed (spiritual torture) by the locusts (whose king is Satan – the Destroyer), are actually the people who are slaves to Satan.

It’s important to notice that ‘Satan is not only the accuser of God’s people, he is also the tormentor of his own‘. I’ve heard some people say: ‘It will be okay in hell, as my friends will also be there.’ There is no friendship in hell, it’s a place where love cannot exist – Satan is a spiritual being who can only deliver hatred, division, and destruction. His main success in today’s world is to convince people that he doesn’t exist.

Any comments?

The part prayer plays

Revelation 8:6-12 (NIV): “Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.

The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.

The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.”

Selwyn makes a lot of good points in today’s study:

  • ‘Here (in the above verses), the trumpets are sounded to herald what God does in answer to prayer.
  • God wants to enlist our prayers in resisting evil. He could work without us, but such is His esteem for His people that He wants to involve us in the struggle.
  • The trumpets sound out not just doom but warning. (They) are meant to illustrate God’s wrath against sin and alert men and women to the fact that He is active.
  • We, as God’s praying people, have a part in bringing to others an awareness of their need of God.’

The first four trumpets, initiate great disasters on the earth – but there is not complete destruction – two thirds of the world are spared the full force of God’s wrath – God’s mercy and compassion is exercised, with the view that some will heed the warning and turn from their evil ways.

Your thoughts?

‘Reversed thunder’

Revelation 8:1-6 (NIV): “When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne.

The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.”

I liked Selwyn’s conclusion: “How wonderfully reassuring it is to learn that prayer is heard, purified and re-enters earth like ‘reversed thunder’. Have faith to believe that the prayers you offer for the need of the world are being heard and, having been mixed with the fire of God’s Spirit, fall back to earth. What an exciting concept: today, as every day, earth will be shaken spiritually by the prayers of God’s people.”

In Matthew 6:8b, we read, ‘your Father knows what you need before you ask him.’ God knows what we are going to pray about before we even open our mouths. In a certain way, we are being involved with God’s work through our prayers. When our hearts are aligned with God’s will, through the power of the Holy Spirit – then the things on earth which cause us to grieve – are the same things, which come to God’s attention.

The other issue, is that we don’t know the full story – we only see part of the picture as if looking through a dark and cloudy piece of glass. Consequently, our prayers need to be purified – and our misunderstandings removed – before, God perfectly acts, at the right time, on all our prayers.

Have confidence in this truth – that Jesus hears your honest prayer and He will respond in a perfect way – because He loves you.

An argument against evil

Revelation 7:9-17 (NIV): “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ “

How does it make you feel – to be one of the great multitude and to be wearing a white robe – made white in the blood of the Lamb? Knowing that you are sheltered from being destroyed by evil, by His amazing grace.

Selwyn writes: “The poetic forms and language are designed to tease our imagination into seeing that the hearts of all God’s servants in both the Old and New Testaments are sealed against evil. Though evil may harm their bodies it cannot harm their souls.”

The language of Revelation may be difficult to understand at times, but you cannot fail to miss the grandeur and awe and sheer spectacular nature of what it will be like when we are all together in the presence of our Lord – singing joyously (and in tune), giving praise  to God. It’s a scene, which should encourage us all – to persevere in these difficult times, in making God known to a suffering world, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Any comments?

More than a match

Revelation 7:1-8 (NIV): “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: ‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, from the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe of Issachar 12,000, from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.”

Selwyn continues to explore the question – ‘Who can stand against God’s wrath?’ The answer is ‘no one’ can stand, based on their own strength and abilities.

He now qualifies the answer by saying; that the angels can stand, and God’s people can stand – those who are ‘sealed’ from all the tribes of Israel; and all those – from every nation – who are washed by the blood of the Lamb.

It should be noted that numbers in Revelation are mostly symbolic – it’s a nonsense to say that the number ‘144,000’ is a literal number. It stands for a complete number of people as determined in advance by God, from the twelve tribes (completeness = 10 x 10 x 10). A similar use of the numbers seven (perfect) and ten (and complete) were used by Jesus (Matthew 18:22), ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ Meaning, we always forgive – every time; it does not mean 490 times, only.

Yet, there are deceptive people who try to make much, out of literal interpretations, of the symbolic language of Revelation – have nothing to do with them.

No peaceful co-existence

Revelation 6:12-17 (NIV): “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?

The general area where the seven churches were located, is subject to earthquake activity – and several of the cities (mentioned in the early chapters of Revelation) were totally destroyed and re-built in John’s day. In addition, Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, which obliterated the sun for a number of days. Consequently, the early readers of Revelation were only too aware of the destructive forces of nature.

Likewise, early readers of Mark’s Gospel would have been aware of these verses (Mark 13:7-8,24-25 (NIV), Jesus talking to His disciples: “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. …

But in those days, following that distress [could be a reference to the destruction of the Temple AD 70), ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’ (a quote from Isaiah 13:10).”

Selwyn writes, in today’s study: “The opening of the sixth seal by the Lamb brings about a great cataclysm – the shaking of the cosmos. Everything in (the) heaven(s) and earth falls apart. The world is in chaos. No one can stand upright. …

The graphic descriptions are designed to shock us, to make us recognise reality, to help us have no illusions about the depravity and evil that exist in the midst of God’s fair creation.

The chapter ends with a question: ‘Who can stand?’ The answer is clear – no one.”

It’s true – no one can stand against God; no one can survive the consequences of His wrath unless they have a relationship with Jesus – He, who came to save the lost.

Hold on

Revelation 6:9-11 (NIV): “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.”

Selwyn writes: “With the opening of the fifth seal by Jesus, another kind of evil is exposed – the evil of religious persecution. … Why does God allow His people to be persecuted? We know that He is not powerless to deliver them … yet, we will have to wait until we get to heaven for the full answer.

The mark of the faithful is that they hold on. And this is not just to a philosophy, but to a Person – they can cling to Jesus.”

In today’s verses, we again see the sovereignty of God at work; the martyrs are told to wait a little longer until the full number were killed – just as they had been. God knows the time when all things end, and the full number of martyrs  – then, and only then – will judgement occur,

The important point is that none of us will be tested more than we can bear.

I’ve always liked the following verses from Acts 7:54-60 (NIV), the stoning of Stephen: “When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul (Paul).

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”

I would think that death by stoning would be a horrible way to die; yet while he was being stoned and knowing that he was about to die, Stephen could still seek forgiveness for those killing him. This inner strength can only come from the Holy Spirit; and, we can trust in God’s love that if any of us face a similar fate – God’s love will support us in a exactly the  same way. We can indeed hold on to Jesus – at all times.