Posts by rickbarbareblog

I am a retired Clergyman and College instructor. I live in Trenton, SC in Edgefield County.

Revelation 9: Torments for Persecutors of God’s People

Image above Albrecht Dürer “The Angel with the Key to the Abyss,” from: The Apocalypse, circa A.D. 1497.

Revelation 9

The First Woe

1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.

I. We should see in the three ‘Woes’ God’s increasing judgment against the persecutors of His people and those who oppose His will.

Structure of the Last Trumpet Blasts

This verse signals the fifth trumpet as the first of three ‘woes.’ The last three trumpets are said to be ‘woes’ because of the increase in severity to mankind. They are designed to bring extreme calamity and suffering upon the “earthdwellers” — that part of mankind that is opposed to God.

The first four trumpets are indirect — affecting only man’s natural environment. The last three trumpets affect man directly by touching his very life.

The Purpose of the Trumpets

God is still warning men. The day of grace is not past at this point. People can still repent and be saved. But, with the rejection of grace extended in the indirect warnings, more severe judgments come in the direct ones.

We do not know whether the judgments of our time are the end of the age itself, but we know they signal the end of our civilization as we know it.

The Asia Minor believers of the first century would have looked upon severe judgments on Rome as means by which God was punishing sin and persecutors of His church. These last four seem to be a reiteration of the last three seals which focus more clearly on the end of the age. 

II. We should see that God can use evil to bring His will to pass. 

The Position of the Star in the Vision

John did not see the star, actually fall. It had already fallen to the earth when he saw it in the vision. “Fall” (piptô) is in the perfect tense.

The Interpretation of the “Star”

It is obvious that the “star” is used symbolically of a person. Which person is indicated?

(1) A ‘star’ is often used as a symbol for ‘angel’ (compare Job 38:4-7 and Lk. 10:17-18);
(2) Some feel very strongly that the star is a fallen angel — even Satan himself.
(3) Others feel
that it is just an angel sent on a mission.
(4) One
commentator takes it as an abstract — the gospel (Torrence) .
*(5) There are many suggestions, but
a definite identification is impossible. It is safe to say that the fallen star here is a person — a spiritual being — of great magnitude who performs a God-given task. That is all we know about him.

The Shaft of the Abyss

The “shaft of the abyss” is a Hebrew concept. The Greek word abyssos is an adjective meaning ‘bottomless’ or “unfathomable.’

(1) In the LXX, (the Septuagint or Greek translation of the Hebrew OT) , it occurs 25 times translating the Hebrew word tehom — the primal ocean, deep waters, or the place of departed spirits.
(2) It also carried the meaning “prison of fallen spirits” in Rabbinic Judaism.
(3) In the N.T. it means “a prison for demons.” (Colin Brown’s New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. II, p. 205)

The Restraint of Certain Demons

If these demons were not limited in their access to the earth, the earth would be a much more evil place. Demons do not perpetrate all that is upon their hearts to do because the Lord restrains them. However, at a certain point, the Lord relaxes his restraint upon demonic forces. Then, they can perpetrate more of their plans and designs upon their victims. God does this in order to bring men to repentance. The goodness of God is supposed to lead men to repentance, but often they only respond to judgment.

The Key to Evil is in God’s Hands. 

The Key “was given” to the angel using the passive voice to indicate an implied divine agent.

Literal doesn’t mean a newspaper account of the future. The Use of “like” and “as” in Chapter 9 is important. It should be noted that the words “like” (homoios) and “as” (hôs) occur more often in this chapter than in any other chapter in the Bible (15 times).

John is not seeing things in their essence — like they really are. He is seeing spiritual realities symbolized in forms he cannot find literal words to describe. That is why he says that “they were like X”. Note carefully, he did not say “they were X”.

Notes

 

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Application of the First Four Trumpets

Image above from Wikimedia commons.

Application of the Major Teachings of Revelation 8

Application of Revelation 8

The two points of application in Revelation 8 are:
(1) the Prayers of God’s people for vindication in their persecution and sufferings — “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” [ESV; Rev. 6:10] and
(2) the judgments that fall on the earth-dwellers as a result of God’s intervention in answer to His people’s prayers.


I. Silence in heaven demonstrates God is attentive to our prayers. 

The Seventh Seal has content and is not just a dramatic pause. All of heaven is brought to silence so God can hear the prayers of His persecuted, suffering people. The suffering is caused by the the earth-dwellers who cannot reach God with their hatred, so they strike out at those who are His people. 

The phrase “those who dwell on the earth” (tous katoikountas epi tēs gēs) refers to those who are permanently at home on the earth and desire no other place (see Thayer, below). God’s people are pilgrims just passing through this earth. Hebrews 11:13-16 states all the Christian’s cherished desire —

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. [ESV; empahsis mine.]


II. The fact that God halts all other activity in heaven speaks of His feeling of our sufferings.

Gustave Dore heaven

Gustave Doré: Paradiso Canto XXXI.19. c.1868; innumerable angels surround God’s throne and constantly worship Him. They are hushed to silence when the humblest of saints pray!

God is not impassive — that is He is not without true feelings. God is also not capricious — that is He does not have emotions that flare out through loss of control. J. I. Packer clarifies this position over “open theism” that is heresy.

Impassivity [is not] unconcern and impersonal detachment…and is not insensitivity and indifference to the distresses of a fallen world; not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief; but simply that God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us, for his are foreknown, willed and chosen by himself, and are not involuntary surprises forced on him from outside, apart from his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are. (See Packer, p. 16, below; emphasis mine.)

We are never alone in our sufferings. As the old hymn says — “God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head.”We have One at God’s right hand who intercedes for us in our suffering.


III. We are right to pray for righteous vengeance if our goal is the glory and vindication of God.

5th-Seal-Slaughtered-Souls-under-the-Altar-for-the-word-of-God-and-thir-testimony-1024x545

Image from Penterist showing the hands raised in prayer for avenging innocent blood. 

Remember the prayers in Revelation 6:9-11 —

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice,
“O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

God hears and answers our prayers like this one from Rev. 6:10! Waiting for the answer is the difficult part. Every evil government will fall in answer to this prayer! Who would have thought the Berlin Wall would have fallen? People sell pieces of it as souvenirs. God rules from His throne and His will comes to pass in His time and way. Our timetable is not His. Ours to to pray in faith and wait. 


IV. In the first four trumpet judgments we see the removal of life-supports that lead to the fall of evil empires and wicked men between Christ’s first coming and His second coming.

Perhaps a chart might show the effects of the first four trumpets better than writing about them.

Trumpet Judgments and Effects on the Earth Dwellers

These removal of life’s physical supports partially (1/3rd) speaks both to unbelieving persecutors of Christians and to those who are believers in Christ. Unbelievers are warned to repent before it is too late. Those who are too much at home here on earth and adopt its thinking and ways will perish when God judges it. Believers who grow close to the ways and thinking of the earth-dwellers will suffer as a result. I am thinking of how compromise with the world may not affect us so much as it affects our children and grandchildren. (see Johnson, D. E. below)


V. The last three trumpet judgments show us that God’s patience has a limit. 

Let us witness to unbelievers of His free offer of Grace to all who believe and repent of their sins. As long as the final judgment has not yet come, there is hope for those who are lost. God can even save the church’s persecutors. Don’t forget Paul the Apostle!

Next time we will move on to Chapter 9 and the first woe.

Notes

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://www.biblegateway.com

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Packer, J.I. (1986). “Theism for Our Time,” in Peter T. O’Brien and David G. Peterson, God Who Is Rich in Mercy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

Thayer. (2020). Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Accessed 24 June 2020 from https://biblehub.com/greek/2730.htm

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Fourth Trumpet Blast and Announcement of the Three Woes

Image above is “The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70,” by David Roberts (1850), shows the city burning (Wikipedia)

Revelation 8

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.


gettysburg-battle-charge-1500

Battle at Gettysburg, 1863. Stunning illustration from an original 1863 Harper’s Weekly newspaper.

I. We should pay attention to disasters as God’s warning of impending judgment.

vs. 12 The judgment on Light Sources — The Greek word for “stricken” is plessô. The noun form is plêgê from which we derive our English word plague. This is a judgment on the light reaching earth from heavenly bodies. This plague is reminiscent of the ninth plague (Ex. 10:21) in Egypt. Darkness always tends to frighten men. Any disturbance in the heavens should point out a warning to sinners. The effects of this plague is the lessening of the earth’s light. It does not mean that the days are shortened from 24 hrs. to 16 hrs., as some commentators hold. It simply means that only 2/3 of the normal light reaches the earth.

Darkness in day time is generally the effect of siege during war. As enemies burn the surrounding crops, day seems as night. (see Johnson, D. E., below). 

“At the opening of the sixth seal John saw the sun blackened, the moon turned blood-red, and the stars fallen to earth like figs (Rev. 6:12-13); yet now he sees sun, moon, and stars still shining in the sky and then struck with only a partial dimming.” (see Johnson, D. E., below). 

The quotation above underscores the conviction that the various judgments in Revelation are recapitulation of preceding judgments with an increasing focus on the end — also known as progressive parallelism. 


Dark-Days

Delos Palmer painting depicting the “Dark Day.” 1934

On May 19, 1780 in Connecticut, at 9 a.m., the legislature was in session, trying to work through the maze of problems caused by “the horrors of an unnatural war,” as clerk Strong put it, when the sky began to darken. Within an hour, he wrote, it “occasioned a solemn gloom of unusual darkness.” In the lower house, work stopped as nervous legislators went to the windows to watch and wonder. It got darker still, and by 11 a.m. it was impossible to read or recognize another person’s features, even when they stood near the legislative chamber’s windows. Panic set in—both in the town and in the general assembly. Fearing that the day of divine Judgment—the Biblically prophesied moment when God would come to “judge the living and the dead” ­– had actually arrived, the lower house hastily adjourned, legislators groping their way through the darkness toward home.

Judge Abraham Davenport of Stamford called his fellows to their civic duty, even in the face of impending doom. “The day of judgment is coming or it is not,” Davenport told his fellow councilors. “If it is not, there is no occasion for alarm. If it is, I wish to be found in the line of my duty. I move therefore, that candles be brought.” See Normen, below). 


Cause of the Darkness and the Meaning

The incident with darkness during the daytime in 1780 was caused by forest fires, thick fog, and cloud cover. (see New England’s Dark Day below.)

II. We as Christians should proclaim Christ’s Gospel during times of disaster.

This story gives us a Christian response to the moral darkness around us today. Maybe this is a sign of the Day of Judgment. It certainly is a herald of judgment on us as Western society for our manifold sins and corruption of other nations around the world. As believers, we ought to be about our duty! We have the Gospel message and it is still “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes (Romans 1:16-17).” 

If it is not the final judgment that is upon us, let us all be about our duty of preaching the Gospel, which is always a proper response to any disaster. 

Revelation 8

13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!”


 

Griffon Vulture Wikipedia

Griffon Vulture Wikipedia

III. We as Christians ought to warn the unrepentant of worse judgments to come if they do not turn to Christ.

vs. 13 The Eagle — The eagle (aetos) is a carrion bird of prey — the griffon-vulture (see Brown; pp. 172-6; below). It is a sign that carnage due to warfare or plague is imminent.

The Three “Woes” — The last three trumpets will be different from the other four. They will be direct judgments. Those who will not repent because of indirect judgments will be hardened by more direct ones.

The phrase “those who dwell on the earth” is a technical term in Revelation for those who are opposed to God and to his people (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8; 17:2) . That there will be severe judgments to follow the indirect ones speaks of the fact that God will not always be patient with unrepentant man. However, there is a limit to God’s longsuffering and forbearance. May God give us grace to respond to him when he speaks or acts.

Trumpets warn of impending judgment, but the final judgment will come in God’s time.


“St. Augustine’s Last Public Prayer” always stirs me not to give up in perilous times.

And it chanced at one time while we were seated with him at the table and were conversing together that he said to us: “I would have you know that in this time of our misfortune I ask this of God: either that He may be pleased to free this city which is surrounded by the foe, or if something else seems good in His sight, that He make His servants brave for enduring His will, or at least that He may take me from this world unto Himself.” (see Possidius, Chapter 29; below).


Next time application of the first four trumpets!

Notes (Sources of this study)

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Brown, C. (1979). The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Volume I. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Hendriksen, Wm. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Johnson, A. F. (1996). Revelation (Expositor’s Bible Commentary series). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Co.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

New England’s Dark Day. (2020). Assessed 19 June 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_England%27s_Dark_Day

Normen, E. (2016). Darkness and Duty. Accessed 14 June 2010 from https://www.ctexplored.org/from-the-state-historian-darkness-duty/

Possidius (439). Life of St. Augustine; CHAPTER XXIX: Augustine’s last illness. Accessed 14 June from http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/possidius_life_of_augustine_02_text.htm#C29

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Second and Third Trumpet Blasts

Image above: The naum aquia (naval battle in the flooded Colosseum). Painter: Ulpiano Checa,  1894.


Revelation 8

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.


The first trumpet judgment involved disasters on the lands of the persecuters of Christ’s people. Let me make one fact clear. I do not believe the wrath of God falls on His people. They are shielded from harm by God Himself, just as ancient Israel was shielded from Egyptian plagues. (cf Exodus 9:6).

Note also that with some of the plagues, Israelites had something to do to insure God’s protection, Exodus 9 —

18 Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.

19 Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.

20 Then whoever feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, 21 but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left his slaves and his livestock in the field.

God’s providential care of His people oftentimes includes the use of means that are human. God can act directly or He can act through secondary causes. We are to seek wisdom from God about our circumstances! Then, we are to follow that wisdom to insure our safety and well-being. 

Note God’s instructions to His people when He judges His enemies in Isaiah 26 —

20
Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.
21
For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place
to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity,
and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,
and will no more cover its slain.

There comes a time when God’s people have to absent themselves from the life of the world and carefully observe God’s wisdom in His word. 

The wrath of God falls in punishment on those who are not believers. Revelation 7 records the census of God’s warriors and their sealing with the seal of the living God. They are secured from heresy and harm by God’s wrath. 

Mediterranee_02_EN

Mediterranean Sea – Wiki Media Commons

I. We should hear God’s warning in every sea disaster. 

Fresco with Mount Vesuvius behind Bacchus and Agathodaemon, as seen in Pompeii’s House of the Centenary ca. AD 79.

Pompeii_-_Casa_del_Centenario_-_MAN

vs. 8 The burning mass cast into the sea — This vision seems in John’s mind to be a volcanic-like eruption that slides into the sea. The explosion of Mount Vesuvius was fresh in the minds of all around the sea. The Greek word hôs (“like”) is used, so it is difficult to say how literally this vision’s fulfillment should be taken by us. The Romans referred to the Mediterranean Sea nostri maris (“our sea”). They were at the time the masters of their world in their thinking. Yet we know who is the Master — The Lord God Almighty!

The Rev. Peter Marshall preached at the Naval Academy hours before the announcement came that Pearl Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese. His prayer at that time was helpful as a great many would soon be at sea in war.

In the Old Testament, “mountains” are symbolic of nations, especially evil, overweening nations (see Jeremiah 51:24-25; click the links in any of my posts and they will open in another window so you won’t lose your place here). 

This is most surely a battle at sea that affects and destroys 1/3 of the salt water and creatures therein. 

One third of the sea became blood — This imagery suggests the first plague in Exodus 7:20-21. The word “sea” has the definite article indicating the Mediterranean Sea was in John’s mind. see Isaiah 15:9 for a reference to “blood” as an image of a battle.

vs. 9 One third of the creatures in the sea are smitten and 1/3 of ships destroyed — This plague afflicts the salt water inhabitants. It also affects commerce and trade.

We should see in every disaster involving the sea, a battle the Almighty institutes against those who persecute His people. Our God is the sovereign over the environment.


Revelation 8

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.


II. In every disaster in connection with fresh water we should hear God’s warning.

Artemisia_absinthium_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-164

Absinthe

vs. 10 The Fresh Water Smitten — This plague is the fresh water counterpart to the previous one that affected the salt water. This is a burning object. It along with the volcano in the last trumpet is symbolic of Divine visitation. The text says that it affected 1/3 of the rivers and the springs.

At times, God touches the fresh water of a land to draw people away from earthly pursuits and fix them on the eternal! Such things are warnings to unbelievers and to believers alike. The Texts on which the following hymn are based: Isaiah 55:1, 2; Matthew 11:28-30.

vs. 11 The Star that Fell — Wormwood” (apsinthos in Greek) is a bush like our western sage bush. It is a variety of artemesia absinthium. All of them have a bitter taste.

There is a liqueur made from it that can either kill a man, if given in a large dose, or leave him mentally deranged, in a smaller dose.

Bitter Water — This judgment against the fresh water leads to the death of many (polloi) . It is restricted to 1/3 of mankind. This is a reversal of the miracle at Marah (Exodus 15:23 ff)

Next time, the fourth trumpet and the announcement of the Three Woes.

Notes (Sources of this study)

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Hendriksen, Wm. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Johnson, A. F. (1996). Revelation (Expositor’s Bible Commentary series). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Co.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The First Trumpet Blast

Revelation 8

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.

Image above from: Brady Smith USDA Forest Service

Structure — The entire trumpet series can be divided into two parts — (1) the first four and (2) the last three. This is similar to the seals forces that are unleashed in the world.

In the first four trumpets we have (1) indirect judgments, and for the most part nature is touched. Man is only affected indirectly, but powerfully. In the last three trumpets (2) the judgment is direct and more potent. It seems that the Lord is warning in the first four and is judging in the last three.

Parallels between the Seals and the Trumpet Judgments

I. God is in total control of the disasters He brings upon the earth to punish the persecutors of His people.

Note with the beginning of the trumpet judgments, we see specific, but partial, judgments brought on those who persecute Christ’s people. I draw parallels between the first four seal judgments (abstract forces) and the first four trumpets in the chart above.

The background to the effects of the first four seals is Ezekiel 14:13-14; 21. 

Siege attack in Roman times

Roman Siege Warfare from Ancient History Encyclopedia

I agree with Dennis E. Johnson that the first century believers would have seen the images of apocalyptic judgments as a description of war and its effects on a city or region under siege. “These four are the Lord’s weapons against lands and cities that defy his authority (see Johnson, D. E., below).

The key to interpretation of the images in apocalyptic literature is to note the impact of the images would have had upon the original audience, first. The Churches of Asia Minor would have seen these images as characteristics of siege warfare on their region.

The hail, fire, and blood would have destroyed their food supplies on the land. God is declaring war upon nature where His people are persecuted. He is also cutting off material things that people use to make their lives comfortable. This is the essence of idolatry — Romans 1:25 — “to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.

II. We ought always to keep in mind this judgment comes from the throne room of God.

Not only are the plagues from Egypt applied to the first century situation, the siege against Jericho and the subsequent fall of its walls are, too. If we find ourselves witnessing the wrath of God being poured out on sinful people, we must not shrink back in fear. God always punishes the persecutors of His people. God promises to bring down evil governments and nations all throughout the church age. He will use one evil nation to bring down another less evil nation. God will then bring another to bring down the winner (see Habakkuk for this strategy!).

God is sovereign over all nations and people. Trumpet-judgments are God’s war on ungodly persecution of His people!

I don’t always feel like singing in my prayer times, but I do feel much encouraged when I do! I love Paul Gerhard’s hymn — “Give to the Winds thy Fears.”

When I taught at a Bible School early in my ministry, I had privilege to teach a German Lutheran Sister — Schwester Waltraut Menzel. She was from the Diakonissen Mutterhaus Aidlingen, Germany, about 17 miles from Stuttgart. She was certainly a shining example of German Christians at their best! When our oldest son had meningitis at 18 months, she sat with him often so my wife could have some relief, during his 10 day hospital stay.

She gave me a book, Bright Valley of Love: The True Story of a Handicapped Child Who Finds a Haven of Love in the Nightmare of Nazi Germany. It is about a German community for handicapped individuals, Bethel, that was founded in 1867. Bethel stood firm during the Nazi period. It still exists today.

Epilepsey_Center_Bethel_Germany_

This former farmhouse building accommodated the first patients with epilepsy of the Rhinish-Westphalian Asylum for Epileptics founded in October 1867 above.

Epilepsey_Center_today_in_Bethel_Germany

Epilepsy hospital “The Mara”. The Mara today is one of the main institutions of the Bethel Epilepsy Centre above.

The director of the community, pastor Friedrich Bodelschwingh, Jr., resisted Nazi attempts at removing the persons under his care. When given notice the T-4 group would be soon coming to remove untermenschlich (“sub-humans”) from their community, courageously, he sent this reply to the Nazis —

“You can put me into a concentration camp if you want, that is your affair. But as long as I am free, you do not touch one of my patients. I cannot change to fit the times or the wishes of the Führer. I stand under orders from our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Pastor Bodelschwingh, Jr. pictured below on a German postage stamp honoring him.)

Stamp_Germany_1996_Briefmarke_Friedrich_von_Bodelschwingh

German postage stamp honoring the son of the director of Bethel. He helped the community remain faithful and unharmed during the Nazi era.

Many times the Nazi T-4 organization threatened to transport all patients at Bethel to be euthanized, but the director refused to give in. In their darkest hour, a young crippled boy, Gunther, would appear outside Rev. Bodelschwingh’s study and sing Paul Gerhard’s hymns to encourage his faith. In that book, I first learned “Give to the Wind thy Fears.” (see Bethel Foundation, below.)

His grandmother had dropped him off, saying he was “loony , and all of the rest of Bethel residents were loony too.”

Later, Sister Marie at Bethel told Gunther, “When you sing praises to God, Gunther, somehow you remind us that we are not carrying our sorrows and troubles all alone” (See Hong, below). 

We too can stand for Christ in the midst of threatening judgments on our country or region or church. The wrath of God that falls on wicked people angers them so much that they strike out at God’s people! They cannot acknowledge God exits, so they strikeout at those who believe He does. We must “give to the winds our fear” and follow God who is faithful to His promises in all seasons of life.

III. Those who persecute God’s Church are at war with God, and God is at war with the persecuters of His people.

Saints may feel under siege by their neighbors, caught in the middle as it were between God and the punished earth-dwellers. We must take up prayers that God will send His judgment against hardened opponents of God’s work. We always hope for salvation, even of those who persecute Christians, but some are so determined to wipe out Christ’s Church that they refuse to repent.

One third — It is significant that these plagues all involve 1/3 of things. This speaks of the partial answering of the prayers of the saints now. There will be token fulfillments all through the age of the church and just before the end there will be the complete fulfillment. The seven bowls will record the final manifestation of the wrath of God. The trumpets are only warnings of impending doom, and are, therefore, partial. The first area affected is that of man’s natural environment — the greenery. Food supply was always an object of destruction in a siege. We do well to see that God inflicts punishment from natural occurrences — weather, etc.

The partial character of these judgments reveal God is punishing in part before the end of the age. To believers God warns not to be too closely aligned with their “earth-dwelling” neighbors. These are they who are in step with the times and social elitists

Next time, trumpets two and three.

Notes

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Bethel Foundation. (2020). Accessed 5 June 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethel_Foundation

Hendriksen, Wm. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Hong, E. H. (1976). Bright Valley of Love: The True Story of a Handicapped Child Who Finds a Haven of Love in the Nightmare of Nazi Germany. Augsburg Press.

Johnson, A. F. (1996). Revelation (Expositor’s Bible Commentary series). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing Co.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Angels Prepare to Sound their Trumpets: a Brief Orientation

Revelation 8:6

6 Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.


Before beginning explanation of the Trumpet-Judgments, we should perhaps look at the big-picture.

…The strange and startling events of the world’s history [are] the alarm notes blown by God’s angels across the world, to remind us of the war in which every citadel of evil must inevitably fall. (see Ellicott, below.)

I. God’s trumpet-judgments speak differently to us as  Christians than they do to the non-believers. 

To the wicked persecutors of Christ’s Church, trumpet-judgments say — repent of of your wicked ways or you will perish with the godless system you so value. “World (cosmos in Greek) most often refers to the humanistic system that is at odds with God (Matthew 18:7; John 15:19; 1 John 4:5).” (See Got Questions below.)

Golden Lampstand Church in China; Left: original building; Right: blown up by CCP.
Images from AP.

To God’s people, trumpet-judgments are a summons to the spiritual battle through prayer.

Ephesians 6 enlightens us about the war we involved in —

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

God’s people are facing evil, fallen angels at work in the world system opposing Christ and His Church. We must bear this in mind because physical weapons are ineffective against the forces of evil working behind human beings who believe their lies.  Only fervent prayers can break down the evil infra-structure built up in the spirit world behind evil humans being’s actions. II Corinthians 10 denies to us the use of physical weapons —

4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

When Paul describes the armor, he gives us the defensive/offensive armor with which to engage in prayer! 

18 pray…at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Some might view what I have said about defensive/offensive weapons to be strange. They see everything but the Sword of the Spirit as defensive. Think about it for a moment. When soldiers go the war, they do not throw weapons from the armory at the enemy. They confront the enemy as active soldiers who are outfitted with weapons from God’s armory. God equips us in Christ for the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged. We are His praying soldiers! 

When we see various catastrophes occurring around us,  we ought not despair or worry. God is at work, and we should pray and ask that His will be accomplished through what is occurring. We may not understand why things happen, but we can rest assured God has ordered those circumstances.


battle_of_jericho

by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld (1794–1872) WikiCommons

II. Trumpets signal to believers that God is present to bring this evil age to an end.

Not only are the trumpet-visions connected with the Exodus plagues, but they are also connected to the Battle of Jericho. See Joshua 6 for the account of the fall of Jericho’s walls (the link will open in a separate window).  

HotelSanSalvadorHebrews 12:26-27 reveals that we are meant to feel unsure about our earthly surroundings. If they totter and we find no place where we feel secure, we ought to set our hearts on that place that cannot be shaken. We ought to trust in God who is our refuge and fortress.

26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. (ESV).

The trumpet visions portray limited disasters and distresses in the midst of history, events that are bitter foretastes of the final, unrestrained strained destruction of all opposition to God’s reign at the end of the present world order (see D. E. Johnson below).

So, God is intent on destroying this evil world and its system and giving the renew earth to his people. The trumpet-visions show us how God does this partially throughout the last days that extend from Christ’s resurrection to His second coming at the end of the age. 

We should not look to the symbols in Revelation as if they are newspaper accounts and then transfer them to 21st Century life. Fire = missiles, etc. I suggest that we ought to pay close attention to

(1) the sphere of judgment: land, sea, rivers, and sky
(2)
the extent of judgment: 1/3
(3)
the effects of the judgment: world system interrupted, God’s people shielded, and  wicked punished.

These areas will yield the best interpretation and application to our everyday lives as we will see as we progress through the trumpet-judgments in future posts. 


III. Trumpets hail a New Exodus of believers from this world to the kingdom of God.

These plagues are now shown to be typological or prophetic foreshadowings of God’s judgments against unbelievers throughout the church age and culminating in the last judgment, which initiates the final exodus of God’s people from this world of captivity into eternal freedom (see Beale, below). 

Trumpet Judgments Chart

Trumpets in ancient Israel in the wilderness signaled preparation to march toward the promised land. Revelation allows us to see in disasters around us that we Christians are on the march toward the eternal kingdom of God. We are not yet at our final destination. We will leave this place of suffering and godless living to take our place there. All unrest around Christ’s people ought to cause us to see Christ is leading his people in a New Exodus toward their eternal home. Remember, these trumpet angels come from the very presence of God. He is in control!

Trumpet specifics next time. 

Notes

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Ellicott, C. J. (1878). Ellicott’s Bible Commentary For English Readers, Volume 3 Reprint (Harrington, DE: DelmarvA Publications. Kindle Edition.

Got Questions. (2020). “What does it mean that we are not to love the world?” Blog post; accessed 29 May 2020 from https://www.gotquestions.org/do-not-love-the-world.html

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Luther, Martin. (1853 printing). Bible in German. (Leipzig, Germany: Baumgärtners Buchhandlung, 1853) p. 291. Image above the post.

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

The Altar in Heaven — Revelation 8:3-5

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,[a] flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

We see from this passage —

God receives the prayers of His persecuted church as they pray and answers them according to His plan!

I. When God acts in judgment, we know the time to the answer our prayers has arrived. vs. 3

We view God’s work in space and time retrospectively. We cannot foresee how God will work. By looking up to God in our need, we anticipate His action, however. After He acts, we recognize what He has done and this encourages us to trust Him for more. Waiting for answers to our prayers is an exercise in perseverance. Isaiah 40 has meaningful words to persecuted Christians! 

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. [ESV]


II. Angels have unseen ministries that assist us as believers. vs. 4

We ought not to get caught up in the ministry of Angels in the Revelation. It is enough for us to know they are sent by God, we cannot see them, but they serve us. 

Hebrews 1:13-14 gives us a hint only into Angels existence and ministries —

13 …to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

The angel in Revelation 8:3 is identified as another angel (Greek allos — another of the same rank as the seven, but different from the particular group of seven angels previously mentioned). It is not the Lord Jesus under the symbolism of an angel. It is an Incense altarangel who has the task of presenting the prayers to the Lord for their fulfillment at the proper time in John’s vision.

The altar in heaven is the heavenly model of the incense altar, which was in the Tabernacle in the wilderness and Temples in Jerusalem. There is no altar of sacrifice in heaven. It was at Calvary. Only the incense altar is there. It is the place where the prayers of God’s people were symbolically offered in the Tabernacle.


III. The effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous is heard in heaven!

Andrew_MurraySome prayers are not answered during a believer’s lifetime on earth. This passage would have encouraged first century believers in Asia Minor to pray without ceasing! 

Andrew Murray (1828-1917), Dutch Reformed South African pastor, said that his family had lived under the showers of answered prayers of their forebears for generations. Family reunions had met year after year and prayed for the next generation to walk in God’s ways. They ended each reunion with the singing of their family hymn — “O God of Bethel.” 

1 O God of Bethel, by whose hand
thy people still are fed,
who through this weary pilgrimage
hast all our fathers led;

2 Our vows, our prayers, we now present
before thy throne of grace;
God of our fathers, be the God
of their succeeding race. (see Doddridge, 1736; below.)

The Murray family testifies —

We are very highly privileged in being heirs to the prayers of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, but we should in turn pray for our children. They may change their names by marriage or go to the ends of the earth, but they cannot escape the mark placed upon them, for in their veins flows the blood of generations of praying ancestors. (see Choy below.)


IV. Prayer does change things, but it is prayer according to the will of God! vs. 5

The golden censor is a bowl that was used in the OT temple worship. (See it pictured at the right on the Incense Altar.) Burning coals would be placed on it and incense would be burned and before the Lord. Fire PanIncense symbolizes the prayers of the saints in the Scriptures (cf. Rev. 5:8). All of the prayers for vengeance and vindication which have been prayed by the suffering church on earth are now about to be answered. The angel takes the place of the priest in the temple and offers up the prayers of God’s people in John’s vision.

Note that the incense was added to the prayers of saints, and that it was given to the angel. Here again we have passive voice with implied Divine agency. William Hendriksen connects the incense to the intercession of Christ —

Are we stretching the meaning of the symbol when we draw the conclusion that this incense that is given to the angel represents our Savior’s intercession in heaven for His persecuted Church on earth? (see Hendriksen, p. 117, below.)


R. C. Sproul, used an effective illustration of what Rev. 8:3 teaches, though he did not use it in connection with this passage. He said the story originated from Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.

One morning a little girl appeared before the servant that managed the household. She said she had picked “flowers” for her father. The servant saw some flowers from the garden, but mostly weeds were there mixed in with a few beautiful flowers. The servant offered to present the daughter’s flowers to her father. She readily agreed, not wishing to disturb her father at work.

The servant then took the little girl’s “flowers” to the table in the hall before the master of the house’s office. On that table was a vase with fresh flowers picked by the servants from the garden. He laid the little girl’s flowers out on that table and carefully removed the weeds. Then, he took some flowers from the vase and mixed them into hers. He presented the flowers to her father in her name.

This is a good example of how Christ’s intercession works together with saints’ prayers!


All of the judgments to follow in the book of Revelation are as a result of the prayers of the saints. God’s sovereignty and the prayers of the saints work together in the plan of God. Eugene Peterson puts it poetically —

The prayers which had ascended, unremarked by the journalists of the day, returned with immense force in George Herbert’s phrase, as “reversed thunder.” Prayer reenters history with incalculable effects. Our earth is shaken daily by it.

My wife and sat in our den one evening, and all of sudden, there was a grinding noise in the distance. She asked if that were a train coming. (We live about 200 feet from the main line between Columbia and Augusta.) I said, “No wait for it.” We sat as the shaking of our house from one in to the other arrived in small ripples just a few seconds later. “It’s an earthquake.” Sure enough, I pulled up an app on my phone and a 4.2 scale earthquake had occurred in the western part of Edgefield County, SC.

I don’t know about you, but I want to see the earthshaking presence of God visit our world in answer to prayer!

We must not stop praying! The delay of an answer is not a denial. If we stop praying, we might not recognize the answer when it comes, but the answer will come!

The Trumpets next time.


Notes

Choy, Lena. (2000). Andrew Murray: The Authorized Biography. Ft. Washington, PA: CLC Publications. Kindle Edition.

Doddridge, P. (1736). Hymn “O God of Bethel.” From Hymns Ancient and Modern. Accessed 21 May 2020 from https://hymnary.org/text/o_god_of_bethel_by_whose_hand

Hendriksen, W. (1939). More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Piper, J. (1994). “The Prayers of the Saints and the End of the World” Blog post. Accessed 21 May 2020 from https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-prayers-of-the-saints-and-the-end-of-the-world

Ramsey, J. B. (1873). The spiritual kingdom : an exposition of the first eleven chapters of the book of Revelation. Richmond, VA: Presbyterian Committee of Publication. Available from archive.org since it is in the public domain.

Sartelle, J. (2020). “Do Your Prayers Shake the Earth?” Blogpost in Tabeltalk magazine. Accessed 17 May 2020 from https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/do-your-prayers-shake-earth/

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

 

The Trumpet-Angels: Revelation 8:2

[Picture above is a woodcut engraving of Isaiah 6 after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 – 1872), published in 1877.]

Revelation 8:2

2 Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. [ESV]

I. Angels still serve God’s people according to God’s providential plan though we may not see that ministry with our physical eyes. vs. 2

seven_angels_with_trumpets

Woodcut by Albrecht Durer

Verse 2 reveals that there are seven Angels in the very Presence of God. (see Johnson A. F., below.)

These mighty beings worship God and then go forth to do His bidding. Standing in the presence of an ancient King meant to focus attention on him and to be ready to go and do what he commands. There is no higher privilege for a creature than to be one who stands before the presence of God. The Greek word for “before” is enôpion = “before the face of.” One commentator said this means to live as if you were in God’s presence. I think he errs. We do not live as if we did, but rather we really are before the face of God.


This is a particular group of angels. The definite article is used to identify them specifically. These angels are referred to in the Jewish Apocryphal writing of Tobit 12:15. (see Extended Note on the Apocrypha below if you are interested in reading more).

“For I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, who offer up the prayers of God’s people and go into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.”

“In the Pseudepigraphal writing of Enoch 20:7, they are named as — Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel.” (see Pseudepigrapha below below if you are interested in reading more). [see extended note on the Apocrypha’s use in the Church.]

This idea of presence angels is also found in Is. 63:9 “the angel of his presence.” These angels dwell in the presence of God and their actions reflect His attitudes. They are not doing their own will, but they are executing the Divine plan.

I remember my last tour of the Capitol in DC. Over the interior doors to the Chambers of the House of Representatives is the Latin phrase Vox populi, vox Dei (“the voice of the people is the voice of God”). Whoever put that there was wrong. The voice of God in our world is heard in His Word! We go from worship that is directed towards God, and then we go forth to do His will in our lives.

I like the motto on the inside of the House — “In God we Trust.” This is closer to the mark than the one on the door to the outside of the well of the House of Representatives. 

House of Representatives

Above the Speaker’s Rostrum is the Motto of the United States “In God we Trust”

II. God’s trumpet-angels announce warning judgments on those who persecute God’s people.

AngelsWith7TrumpetsAnd1WithCenser

Rev. 8:2 illustrated in the Bamberg Bible 11th Century AD

This instrument is the like the two silver trumpets that were kept in the tabernacle. The use of trumpets in the Revelation must be interpreted in the light of their O.T. significance. They were used to signal a day of remembrance (Lev. 23:24, a triumph (Josh. 6:4), a coronation (I Kings 1:34), or to issue a warning (Jer. 4:5 f.) .

The Passive Voice of “were given” is often used in the NT to indicate an implied divine agency in an action. It is obvious that God has decreed the judgments which are to follow.

III. God’s trumpet-angels summon God’s people to Spiritual Warfare for the gospel.

Magellan_Tankfire__High_Resolution

LEC Picture

It is clear from the passage in Revelation that God is summoning His people to engage in spiritual warfare. Dennis Johnson describes the aim of God in the trumpet, and later the bowl, judgments — “God’s righteous wrath summons every aspect of our environment to indict human rebellion, both through the flow of history (trumpets) and at its climax (bowls).” (see Johnson, D. E., below).

We will see how our prayers play a part in Spiritual Warfare in the next post about the 8:3-5.


Notes

Apocryphal. (2020). Retrieved 13 May 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocrypha

Charles, R. H. (1920). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Revelation of St. John. ICC series, Vol. 1. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 

Johnson, D E. (2011). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Luther, M. (2020). Retrieved 13 May 2020 from https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Apocrypha-Books/

Pseudepigrapha. (2020). Retrieved 13 May 2020 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudepigrapha

West, Logan. Westminster Standards: Confession, Catechisms, Psalms of David in Metre . TeXSet Press. Kindle Edition.


Extended Note on the Apocrypha

The allusions to these extra-Canonical books does not imply these books are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Apocryphal books are printed, if at all in Protestant Bibles, in between Malachi and Matthew. Martin Luther said, “Apocrypha — that is, books which are not regarded as equal to the holy Scriptures, and are yet profitable and good to read.” See Luther below.) The Westminster Confession adds —

“The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”

All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (but none of those which are commonly called Apocrypha) shall be publicly read in the known tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand. (see West, in Notes).

We read secular books for historical purposes, entertainment value, etc. We read the Word of God as Scripture given by God for our instruction and correction!

 

 

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

Silence in Heaven: Revelation 8 Introduction

[Image from https://kdmanestreet.com/tag/how-did-the-priest-approach-the-altar-of-incense/%5D

8:1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

I. Silence is always appropriate when prayers are offered to God.

I can remember as a younger boy a song that was sung at my Great Uncle and Aunt’s Church regularly in their Sunday Morning Liturgy—”The Lord is in His holy Temple.” I looked it up this week on YouTube to help me remember better times in the past. I share it in case you have never heard it sung in worship.

The hymn is based on several Old Testament passages. One obvious one is Habakkuk 2:20 “But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.” (KJV)

Habakkuk’s context lets us know that silent worship is not its primary aim.

“The silence of this worship is not just the silence of reverence. It is the silence of acceptance of the judgment of God against the nation for its sins.” (see Bruckner, p. 248; below.) p_court

As much as I like the old hymn, its main thrust is not silent and reverent worship. There is a place for louder praise and adoration. The passage in Habakkuk is one of the Judge of the Nations about to render His verdict and execute judgment on guilty nations. The silence is everyone being told to shut their mouths because the time for defense of actions is over. 

So, I do not believe the primary reference to this is from the Old Testament. This reference is from the Jewish practice of the priest offering of incense after the sacrifice. Luke 1:8-9 records this—

8 And it came to pass, that while he [Zecharias] executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9 according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. [ESV; emphasis mine]

While the priest went into the inner sanctuary, all the people prayed outside silently. The incense symbolized the prayers of the people. Psalm 141:2 says—

“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” (ESV; emphasis mine)

John’s reason for the silence in Revelation 8:1 is based on the practice of the priest entering into the inner sanctuary and offering incense as a symbol of the praying people. This is the entire content of the Seventh Seal! The saints had prayed in Revelation 6:10—

“How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” 

The breaking of the Seventh Seal lets us know that the time for answering those prayers has come! (see Plummer, below.)

II. God is intensely interested in hearing His people’s prayers. 

God will hear a desperate praying person. Cry out to God in your need, and it will reach his ear! All else in heaven is halted for a persecuted people’s prayers to be presented before Christ’s mercy seat in heaven. E. M. Bounds states — 

Bounds E M 1864

E. M. Bounds 1835-1913

God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. The lips that uttered them may be closed in death, the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat, but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world. (see Bounds, p. 2 below).

The answer to our prayer comes in God’s time. When that time arrives, God allows nothing is to interfere.

Before chapter eight, heaven is a loud place. See Revelation 6 —

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ESV

III. All else is silenced in heaven for persecuted believers’ prayers to be heard and answered by the Trumpet visions.

Now after a preview of the course of the Age from Christ’s ascension to the Second Coming, in Chapter 6, we expect action and noise to continue. Yet, we have silence. It is not for a minute or two but for half an hour. 

After the aside in chapter 7, which reveals the security of the God’s people in the midst of
tribulation, the opening of the seals resumes. We probably expect to see all fury break loose. Instead, there is silence for half an hour (hêmiêron — the accusative of time, which stresses duration). All of heaven is hushed for God’s people’s prayers to be heard and fulfilled. 

silence (2)An ancient Jewish teacher states — “In … heaven are companies of angels of service who sing praises by night, but are silent by day because of the glory of Israel, i.e, that the praises of Israel may be heard in heaven.” (see Charles; Vol. 1, p. 223; below.)

I hope this helps with your understanding of the Seventh Seal in Revelation 8:1. On to the altar and censer next time!

Notes

Bounds, E. M. (1920). Purpose in Prayer. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library. pdf version. 

Bruckner, James. Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (The NIV Application Commentary). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

Charles, R. H. (1920). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, Part 1. New York, NY: Scribner’s and Sons Publishers.

Hymn “The Lord is in His Holy Temple.” (2016). accessed 10 May 2020 from https://youtu.be/Is50_ySfTNY

Plummer, A. (1909) Revelation in The Pulpit Commentary. New York, NY: Funk and Wagnalls Company.

© 2020 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

“The Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” — Application of Revelation 7

[Image above “Dega’s Dancer” 1880 — feeling perplexed but looking upward!]

The late Rev. Eugene Peterson describes discipleship as “the long obedience in the same direction.” This quotation is not original with him, but I like the way he uses it better than the one who originally wrote it! 

We live in an instant-society with no deferred rewards or fulfillment of desires. One man confesses his anger at not getting what he wanted when he wanted it—

“Sometimes, I yell at my phone when the screen freezes. Just last week, I felt my heartbeat rapidly increasing and my legs shaking when the customer service representative from [an online merchant] put me on hold for a few minutes because my package didn’t arrive in two days. It turned out that my package got lost somewhere between [the delivery agent] and my apartment, so I had to wait a whole extra two days to receive my order. Waiting four days for a delivery seems like an eternity in today’s society, as more consumers have become accustomed to the instant gratification afforded by technology.” (See Study Break blog, below; emphasis mine).

Quotefancy-4961651-3840x2160

People today are always living as if they are running out of time. I still remember good advice from a Christian mentor in my youth—”God is never in  a hurry, but he’s never late!” God doesn’t work on our timetable, but on His own plan and timing. Trial etches this on our minds! Spurgeon said—”Suffering not only burns out the impurities, but it also burns in the promises!

When will I be rid of this illness? When will people stop persecuting me for doing God’s will? What did I do to deserve this? Where did that come from? These questions are legitimate! The definitive answer—in God’s timing according to His plan! What do I do in the meantime? Revelation Seven answers that question for the Christians in Asia Minor and for us today.

Note with me the principles that help us to endure severe trials.

I. We are only able to stand in trial and live through it by God’s direct help.

Much perplexes us when we are under trial. Let me cite two questions from Chapter Six that pertain to the application of Chapter Seven, in my opinion.

9 …How long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

Psalm 13-2 How Long O Lord sage (2)

17 …the great day of [God’s and the Lamb’s] wrath has come, and who can stand?”

isaiah-41-10-2

I believe that Chapter 7 answers both of these two questions! Christians want to know, after the course of the entire age is so graphically presented in chapter six, when are the wrongs to be set right and how can anyone possibly stand through the pouring out of God’s wrath?


II. God gives His perspective on the trials we face.

Slide 1(1) The perspective that God is in control of all things in creation helps us to stand firm. 

God is restraining evil men and His judgment, even as he pours out his wrath on a sinful world that persecutes His church. Note in the Chart to the right (or above on a phone), believers are sealed by God and are received into heaven at the end of their lives.

(2) We are sealed by God so we can stand firm in our circumstances.

God has sealed us so that nothing can ultimately harm us. We will not suffer God’s wrath, nor will we apostatize, and leave “the faith once delivered to the saints.” We are not under God’s wrath as are those who persecute us. We are apart of that redeemed multitude that will be gathered in heaven.

(3) We have a  hope in heaven, either after our death or at Christ’s return, that no one or no thing can take away from us.

When all is past, we will be forever with the Lord.

You might think these are only pious platitudes for Church. I would say no! These perspectives are the only thing that can hold us in the turbulent times in which we live in this world. 


Let me cite an incident from the life of General Charles Gordon. The British army was defeated at Khartoum. Reportedly, a sword-bearing enemy soldier finally cornered him and said to him, “I can take your life!” Gordon replied, “You can’t touch my life; it is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3.) With one slash of his sword, off came Gordon’s head and he was set free to see His Savior face-to-face. 

No one can stand against horrific odds without having the hope Christ gives. We long for the encouragement of the scene in heaven of myriads declaring in song the praise of our Redeemer! We desire to see His face and fall at His feet in worship. Until then, let us remain faithful to God where we are!


III. John’s scene in Chapter Seven is an inspiration and a comfort to the believers in all ages suffering persecution! 

Slide 2Note vs. 14 and the Innumerable Multitude — John uses the present tense to indicate that what he was witnessing was presently ongoing. The crowd was becoming larger and larger as he watched. People were walking into heaven after their deaths. The great crowd was swelling. The important fact about them is that they are a redeemed host. They have been “plunged into the fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins.”

We may not see Christ’s Second Coming in our lifetime, but we will make it into Christ’s presence at the time of our departure from earth. Nothing can prevent this from happening.

Isaac Watts has memorialized this passage of Scripture in a hymn—”How Bright These Glorious Spirits Shine”—

How bright these glorious spirits shine!
Whence all their white array?
How came they to the blissful seats
Of everlasting day?

Lo! these are they from sufferings great
Who came to realms of light;
And in the blood of Christ have washed
Those robes which shine so bright.

Now with triumphal palms they stand
Before the throne on high,
And serve the God they love amidst
The glories of the sky.

Our lives may indeed seem to be one long trial stretching into the future, but all will be well once we are in His presence.

Next time we move into Chapter Eight.

Notes

Study Breaks blog. (2020). Accessed 3 May 3 2020 from https://studybreaks.com/culture/instant-gratification/

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