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The Seventh Seal & the First Six Trumpets - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Revelation 8-9

  • 2022-03-27 PM
  • Revelation
  • Sermons

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Well, tonight, we continue our study of the unfolding of God's judgment on this earth in the book of Revelation. We live in a world where there is growing concern about the damage that modern life is causing to our environment. There's a growing concern that the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is going to drastically alter the climate globally. There's a concern that the pollution of our oceans with plastic, petroleum products, and other contaminants will cause the vegetation and marine life to continue to die. There's a concern that our freshwater supply is being contaminated by chemicals and other byproducts of industrialization. There's a growing concern about damage to the earth's atmosphere by various chemicals and byproducts.

Now, let's admit that clearly man has failed in his stewardship of this planet, just as he has failed in every other way relating to God. He has failed at a personal, national, and international level to be wise stewards of all of the resources that God has provided. And, as Christians, let me just say that we ought to take that stewardship seriously. Don't misunderstand; not to save the planet. That is way above our pay grade. But, rather, simply to be responsible, wise stewards of what God has put under our charge, as it's laid out in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 as He gave mankind the responsibility to rule over, to cultivate, and to keep the creation.

But while we should be wise stewards of those things God has placed here for us to use for our blessing and benefit, it's important for us to remember that the greatest devastation this planet will ever endure will come, not at the hands of reckless companies, but at the hand of Almighty God, not because of man's carbon footprint, but because of his sin. God's judgment will fall in the first four trumpet judgments, that we're going to look at tonight, specifically on Earth vegetation, its oceans, its fresh water, and its atmosphere.

Let me just remind you of where we are in the book of Revelation. We're looking at chapters 4-22: "the things which will take place after these things", as Jesus describes it early in this book. In chapter 4 and 5, we looked at the Lamb and the seven-sealed scroll. In chapters 6-18, we find ourselves in the middle of the seven-year Tribulation - chapter 6, the breaking of the first six seals, chapter 7, a brief interlude/discussion of the Tribulation saints. And then, in chapters 8 and 9, the breaking of the seventh seal, which initiates the first six trumpets. With chapter 8:1, the interlude of chapter 7 ends and the pouring out of God's judgment continues with a fury.

Just to remind you of the basic message of these two chapters, it's this: the Lamb breaks the seventh seal, which initiates seven trumpet judgments and seven bowl judgments, and all of these come in response to the prayers of God's people. Chapter 8 begins, as we noted last time, with the seventh seal in verses 1 and 2. Verse 1: the Lamb broke the seventh seal. You remember in chapter 5, He takes the scroll, that is the title deed of the earth, from the hand of the Father who sits on the throne. It's sealed with seven seals. In chapter 6 He broke the first six of those seven seals and unleashed a series of judgments on the earth. Now, here in chapter 8:1, He breaks the seventh and final seal. And the breaking of that seventh seal, initiates a series of seven distinct judgments that will be announced by the blowing of seven trumpets. Then, the blowing of the seventh trumpet initiates a rapid-fire series of catastrophic judgments that come at the very end of the tribulation. Those intense final judgments are described as the pouring out of bowls of wrath. Again, don't think large, deep bowls. Think shallow saucers that are tipped onto the earth, bringing catastrophe and judgment upon the earth. All of that is unleashed with the breaking of the seventh seal. And all that's described in the seventh seal and beyond, occurs during the last half of the tribulation, during the final 3 1/2 years.

Verse 1 continues that, "When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." As I mentioned, it's a silence of foreboding, a foreboding sense of what is about to be unleashed on the earth, not in a negative sense of doubting God's wisdom or His goodness, but just the reality of what it's going to mean, as all of heaven now sees the contents of this opened scroll that is the title deed to the earth.

Verse 2: "And I saw the seven angels who stand before God [these are a specific group of seven angels indicated in the Greek text], and seven trumpets were given to them." Those trumpets are simply ways to announce a series of seven catastrophic judgments.

But before they can blow their trumpets, something else happens first. And we noted this last time. It's a powerful interlude, marked by the appearance of an eighth angel and the saints' prayers in verses 3 through 5. You see this beautiful picture of the angel representing the prayers of God's people before God and burning incense, that pictures that Old Testament image of God delighting in the prayers of His people, the prayers of God's people being like a sweet smell in His nostrils. And here, the prayers of the martyrs of the Tribulation are ascending into God's presence.

And what comes next is God's answer in verse 5: "Then the angel took the censer and filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it to the earth..." He hurls the burning coals mixed with the incense to the earth. The major point, as I noted for you, is that the judgment of God will fall upon the earth, in the second half of the Tribulation, in direct response to the prayers of God's people. That's why the judgment comes mixed with the incense.

Verse 5 goes on to say, "...and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning and an earthquake." The silence of the last half-hour was shattered, and what the angel does in verse 5 signals the other seven angels that it is now time to sound their trumpets. So, the saints' prayers are followed by the first six trumpets, beginning in chapter 8:6 and running through the end of chapter 9.

Let's look at these trumpets together. Verse 6: "And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound them." We aren't told how they prepared, but it might be as simple as raising their trumpets and preparing to blow them at the appointed time. Now, these seven trumpet judgments are grouped by John into three groups. You have the first four that we'll look at tonight. Then you'll have the next two in chapter 9. And then you'll have the last trumpet. Now, the first two groups are separated, in chapter 8:13, by a brief interlude with a lone, flying eagle. And then between six and seven, there's another interlude, chapter 10:1 through chapter 11:13. So, they are broken up. Now, the first four describe a divine judgment on the earth's environment. The fifth and sixth describe a Satanic attack on earth people, permitted by God. The seventh is the culmination of divine wrath, beginning in chapter 11:15.

Now, these seven judgments are very likely the ones that the angel demanded be held back, you remember back in chapter 7, until the 144,000 had been sealed. And now it's time. The first four trumpets occur in the immediate aftermath of that great earthquake at the end of verse 5. We're told nothing about that earthquake, but we do know that the judgments in Revelation don't go down in intensity. They ratchet up. They intensify. And so, almost certainly, the earthquake here in chapter 8:5 is more intense than the one back in chapter 6:12. The judgments that are announced by the first two trumpets seem to be connected to the consequences of that global earthquake. It's an earthquake that apparently alters the earth's tectonic plates, and what we're going to see in the first two trumpets could very well be the results from that huge earthquake.

Now, before we look at the first four trumpet judgments, let me just point out a couple of general observations. First of all, you're going to see, in these first four trumpets, similarities to the ten plagues of Egypt. And I'll note them as we go. And I think there are similar purposes, and we'll talk about that.

A second general observation I want to note is that the Old Testament prophets promised that similar judgments to the Egyptian plagues would come in the future. I won't take you there, but for example, Isaiah 10:22-25, chapter 11:12-16, in Jeremiah's prophecy, Jeremiah 16:14-15, in Ezekiel 38:22, in Amos, etc. So, there are, in the minor prophets and in the major prophets as well, there are indications that those things that happen in Egypt, those kinds of plagues, are going to come again before the end. And we're going to see that tonight.

One other general observation that you'll notice, if you look at verses 7 through 12, the words "a third" - a third occur 12 times. It's very important because it's going to point out to us that in these four judgments on creation, God is not trying to destroy all life. Listen, when God wants to destroy all life, this is not a problem. No, instead, He is bringing judgment, but still with a saving purpose. There are still those whom He will save. And so, He is calling people to repentance.

Now, with that background, let's go back to Revelation 8 and let's study these first four trumpets. Let me say one other thing. Although the description of each of these trumpets is brief, it's clear that if you use normal language or, let me put a different way, a normal hermeneutic, a normal principle of interpretation like you use when you read a website or a newspaper or anything else you read, using a normal hermeneutic it's clear that these are actual, literal, physical events that will unfold on this planet. So, let's look at them together.

The first trumpet in verse 7: "The first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth..." Again, this reminds us of the seventh plague in Exodus 9:24, where it says, "So there was hail, and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very severe, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation." When the first angel sounded his trumpet, hail and fire mixed with blood were thrown to the earth. Now, the text doesn't tell us explicitly the cause of these things. So, we can't be dogmatic. However, I will say this - a great earthquake, like the one in chapter 8:5, would initiate a series of worldwide volcanic eruptions. Such eruptions would eject huge amounts of dust and lava into the atmosphere, and they would be blood-red in color. And the huge amounts of ash and debris thrown into the atmosphere would in turn trigger violent supercell thunderstorms, that would produce huge hail. Such supercell thunderstorms raging across the entire planet fit the imagery of chapter 8:5 - "and there followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashes of lightning..." This is a dramatic aftermath to that huge earthquake in verse 5 that alters the tectonic plates of this planet and eruptions happen everywhere. And, as a result, you see these dramatic storms.

John adds that the hail and the fire, the hail and the lightning, were "mixed with blood". Now, we can't be sure what that is. It might be actual blood that God either miraculously produces, or it could be the blood of men and animals mingles with condensed water vapor in the death that's brought on the planet, and that water vapor with the blood in it, is caught up in intense drafts and falls as hailstorm - hailstones. We can't be sure of that. More likely, I think, the rain and the hail that fall from these massive thunderstorms will be so contaminated with dust and gases and lava from the volcanic eruptions that it will appear red as blood.

Verse 7 says, "...and a third of the earth was burned up..." The combination of lava and ash and the lightning from these massive supercell storms, will ignite fires that will consume a third of the earth's surface - 1/3 of its land and 1/3 of its vegetation. Notice verse 7 goes on to say, "...and a third of the trees were burned up [the Greek word describes large trees of every kind], and all the green grass was burned up." Now, the word "all" here likely refers to all of the vegetation within the third of the earth that is affected by these fires. Clearly, we get to chapter 9:4, some green grass still exists at the time of the fifth trumpet. But even if all of the grass all over the planet is destroyed, it's not a problem because there's a time gap between the first and the fifth trumpets, which allows for grass to be regrown. But I think it's probably related solely - the "all" grass - all vegetation is probably related to the third of the earth where the fires rage.

So, the massive wildfires, ignited in this first trumpet, will consume a third of the earth's vegetation. And, of course, you can only think about the ramifications of that. There will be, as a result, other catastrophic outcomes. Crops will be destroyed. Wildlife will die on a massive scale. Natural materials, that are used in every industry, will be hard to buy, hard to come by. And watersheds will be destroyed, resulting in horrific flooding when the rains from these storms occur.

Just to give you some perspective of what we're talking about in verse 7, imagine for a moment what it would be like on this planet if all of the vegetation in North, Central, and South America were destroyed at once. That's the order of magnitude we're talking about in the first trumpet.

That brings us to the second trumpet - verses 8 and 9. Look at verse 8: "The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea..." The first trumpet affects the land - a third of the land and its vegetation is destroyed. This second one will affect earth's ocean. Have you ever thought about the ocean? According to NOAA, the oceanic administration, there is only one global ocean. There's only one. But the vast body of water that covers 71% of the earth is geographically divided into distinct named regions. So, there aren't a number of oceans. There's one ocean that's helpfully divided. Historically, they go on to say, there are four named oceans - the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic. However, most countries, including the United States, now recognize the Southern Ocean or the Antarctic Ocean as the fifth ocean. So, five regional names for the one ocean.

Have you ever thought about the benefits that come to us from the ocean, apart from sunbathing and swimming. The air that we breathe - the ocean produces over half of the world's oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. Think about the regulation of the climate on this planet. Covering 70% of the earth surface, the ocean, NOAA says, transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns. Transportation: 66% of all U.S. trade involves some form of marine transportation. This is why we've had such a problem over the last two years. The US ocean economy produces $282 billion in goods and services and almost 3 million jobs. Think of food. I had a wonderful meal of sushi for lunch today. Think about all the things we eat that come from the ocean. And think of all of the ingredients that go into other things. Even, did you realize, there're ingredients in peanut butter from the ocean? Some of you can't live without peanut butter. Imagine if the ocean were impacted.

The second trumpet impacts earth's ocean. Notice, in verse 8, John is careful to say that what happens is "something like a great mountain [not an actual mountain, and it will be] burning with fire..." Now, the description that he gives us here points toward an asteroid or a giant meteorite. As it enters the friction of the earth's atmosphere, its surrounding gases are set on fire. And rather than being broken up as it enters the atmosphere, it actually remains intact. And so, here is this massive projectile, burning like a torch, heading toward the surface of the planet. The worst fears of many of our scientists, John tells us, will one day be realized. This asteroid, or this giant meteorite, will strike this planet intact, and it will strike it somewhere in our world's ocean.

The impact, undoubtedly, will create an explosion exponentially greater than that of a nuclear weapon, and the resulting devastation will affect a third of earth's ocean. Notice verse 8: "...and a third of the sea became blood..." Again, we can't be certain of what this means. There are two primary possibilities. God may miraculously turn the sea to blood, even as our Lord turned water to wine. He can certainly do that. It's also possible that the impact and the instantaneous death of billions of marine creatures, that's described in the next verse or the next passage, will give the oceans a red cast.

But, regardless, verse 9 says, "and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed." Now, the most obvious reason for the destruction of a third of earth's great, seagoing ships is that the impact of the asteroid creates massive waves that are able to capsize even the largest of the container ships. And those same waves will, undoubtedly, create disastrous tsunamis that overwhelm many of the planet's ports and its low-lying coastal areas.

Now, just think for a moment of what COVID has done to world commerce and to transportation on the oceans. Imagine the economic disaster from a loss of a third of the world's shipping industry. This is what happens in the second trumpet.

That brings us to the third trumpet in verses 8 to 11, I'm sorry, 10 to 11. Look at verse 10: "The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from heaven, burning like a torch..." When the third angel sounded his trumpet, this great star fell from the sky. Now, the Greek word translated "star" here can refer to any object in the heavens except the sun and the moon. You'll notice this object is described as "burning like a torch", meaning that it has a fiery tail. You can picture a torch. There's the ball, itself, and then the flame shooting off of it. That's the picture of what's going on here. This likely means that this is either a comet or a meteor. The word for "torch", by the way, the Greek word for torch here, "lampas", was used of meteors and comets in the ancient world. So, that only adds to that persuasion.

Verse 10 goes on to say, "and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of waters." The debris from this comet or meteor will fall, not on the ocean, but on large portions of the earth's drinkable water. This should bring back memories of the first plague in Egypt in Exodus 7, where the water was turned to blood - the pollution of Egypt's drinking water, killed the fish, made the water undrinkable. The asteroid in the previous judgment, that fell into the ocean, apparently remained intact. But this object ends up falling on a third of the rivers and springs and so it almost certainly, to do that, has to disintegrate as it enters earth's atmosphere and then debris falls over a large area of the earth's surface.

Verse 11 says, "The name of the star is called Wormwood..." We're not told that this is what God calls it, the angel calls it, or if it's what people on earth call it. The Greek word translated "Wormwood" here occurs only here in the New Testament. The Greek word is "apsinthon". It's a scrub that produces a dark green oil that has a proverbially bitter taste. In the Old Testament, this plant is mentioned eight times, and it's always associated with bitter, poison and death. In fact, three times in the Old Testament, it's related to poison water. For example, Jeremiah 9:15 and Jeremiah 23:15.

Verse 11 goes on to say, "...[this] star is called Wormwood [because of it] ... a third of the waters became wormwood..." Whatever the substance is in the debris of this comet or this meteor, that's described by the name Wormwood, whatever the substance is (that's in the debris), it's poison and it's lethal. Verse 11 says, "... and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter." The wormwood of the Old Testament is not a lethal poison in and of itself. So, this is something different, something in this heavenly body that falls to earth. Now, the text here doesn't seem to imply, in verse 11, that everyone who drank the water died, but that many did because of drinking fresh water poisoned by the debris from this star, this heavenly body.

You may be asking yourself, "I'm trying to imagine how a third of the earth's fresh water can be poisoned?" I had that thought. I mean, just how does that work? Well, think about this. Again, according to Noah, roughly 20% of the world's surface freshwater, 20% (almost a third) is in our Great Lakes - enough water to cover the freshwater system, that is, the Great Lakes has enough water in it to cover the entire lower 48 states (all 48 states) to a depth of almost 10 feet. So, it's not a hard thing for God to work this out. Wells, springs, creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, and reservoirs will all be tainted with the toxic, deadly poison that comes from this star that impacts the planet. And many will die.

On the heels of these rapid-fire disasters comes another - the fourth trumpet. So far, the judgments announced by the trumpets have produced lethal effects on earth's vegetation, on its oceans, and on its freshwater. The last large ecosystem is the atmosphere which, in fact, is devastated by this fourth trumpet.

Verse 12: "The fourth angel sounded, and a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck..." When the fourth angel sounded his trumpet, the light from the heavenly bodies (the sun, the moon, and the stars) were all affected. The Greek word translated "struck" here comes from the noun for plague. God sends a plague that strikes a third of the heavenly bodies, again, like in Exodus 10, when there was a darkness that covered the land of Egypt.

Verse 12 says, as a result of this third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars being struck, verse 12 says, "...so that a third of them would be darkened..." Now, that language implies that the intensity of the sun, moon, and stars will be decreased.

But the next expressions seem to imply not that the intensities decrease, but the absence of all light for a third part of both the day and the night. Notice, verse 12 goes on to say, "...and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way." Now, we can't be sure exactly what all of this means, but it's not a problem for God to do both at the same time. The Creator can both dial down the dimmer switch and He can cause these things not to shine for a portion of the day. It may be absolute, miraculous intervention. It could be the results of all the debris and stuff that's in the atmosphere from what has transpired so far. Regardless, this is not a hard thing for our God.

The Old Testament predicted that, with the approaching of the Day of the Lord, there would be signs in the heaven. For example, Isaiah 13:9-10: "Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light." Ezekiel 32:7-8: "'And when I extinguish you, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud and the moon will not give its light. All the shining lights in the heavens I will darken over you and will set darkness on your land,' declares the Lord GOD." Joel 2:10 and 31 and chapter 3:15, [he meant Joel 2:19] "The LORD will answer and say to His people, 'Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil, and you will be satisfied in full with them; and I will never again make you a reproach among the nations. [But it goes on to say] the sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. [Joel 2:10] The sun and the moon grow dark and the stars lose their brightness." Amos called the Day of the Lord "a day of darkness". Amos 8:9: "'[I] It will come about in that day,' declares the Lord GOD, 'that I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight.'"

Our Lord, too, predicted there would be signs in the heavens in the Olivet Discourse. In Mark 13:24, Luke 21:25: "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves..." So, during this fourth trumpet, God apparently turns down the dimmer on the lights of heaven and He shortens the time the light shows as well. Again, perhaps with divine, miraculous intervention or, perhaps, using the aftermath of some of the events that have already transpired in the earlier trumpets.

But as a result of this, there will be a dramatic loss of heat from the sun. And you can think about all that that will create. The temperature will plunge dramatically all over the planet. Normal weather patterns will change dramatically, along with the tides. That, in turn, will lead to unusually violent storms, unpredictable tides. Crops will be destroyed, animal and human lives lost. All of this from what God will do to the heavens.

After these four trumpets, after the lights of heaven are dimmed, there is a brief interlude that follows in chapter 8:13. This interlude falls between the fourth and fifth trumpets. Look at verse 13: "Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven..." So, the next thing that John sees and he hears is this lone eagle flying in the sky. This is clearly a powerful bird of prey, probably an eagle, possibly a vulture. But it's flying in mid-heaven. In astronomy, this word, this Greek word, is used for the meridian. It's referring to the zenith of the sun. It's the sun's position at midday. So, this powerful bird of prey is flying in the middle of the sky, visible to everyone, and the obvious imagery is that this bird is flying around in anticipation of consuming its victims. Like a vulture, it's circling in the sky, waiting for the coming death of its victim and, in this case, the victims are those who will soon die in God's looming judgment.

Verse 13 goes on to say - this lone eagle, flying in the middle of the sky - "saying with a loud voice..." So, not only is it flying in a place where everyone can see, it's saying with a shriek, so that all can hear, "Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth..." You recognize this word "woe". It's used throughout Scripture to express dismay in the face of God's judgment, in the face of devastation, in the face of God's condemnation - "Woe!" And notice the "woe" is pronounced "to those who dwell on the earth". Now, that expression appears many times in Revelation, and it is a technical term for all of those on earth who have rejected the gospel. These final plagues are not intended for believers. The three "woes" that this lone eagle pronounces, introduce the dangers that are coming. One woe for each of the three remaining trumpets.

Verse 13: "[The three woes are] because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!" What does this mean? It means that the final three trumpets are going to be especially horrific in their consequences because the targets of the final three trumpets are not the elements of nature, as it is with the first four, but instead earth's people. It will be those who dwell on the earth.

You know, as I was studying this over the last couple of weeks, I was struck with the reality. We read this and John saw these things in a heavenly vision, at the end of the first century. He didn't see the reality; he saw a vision of what would come. But do you understand that you and I, we will be raptured before the Tribulation begins, or we'll go in death to be with the Lord. We won't be here for all of this. We will actually see everything John saw in this vision that's in heaven. Everything that happens in heaven, we will see unfold before our eyes. We will actually see these things.

So, what are the lessons that we can learn from these devastating judgments. Why does God direct these judgments against earth's environment? You know, I can't take you to chapter and verse and prove this, but as I've meditated on this, as I've thought about this, it occurs to me that God has lavished mankind with His goodness. You know, I remember that verse in Acts 14 where Paul is preaching and he says to those idolatrous pagans - He says, "[Listen, God] and yet He did not leave Himself without witness [think about what God has done], in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." He has surrounded you in a planet filled with plenty. He has lavished his goodness on you. And how does mankind respond to the goodness of God that surrounds us on this planet, on its land, in its vegetation, in its oceans, in its skies? How does man respond? Romans 1: He neither glorifies God, nor is He thankful. I think there's a very real likelihood that God is reminding humanity that every good thing they enjoy on this planet comes directly from His hand - He gave it to them, and He can take it away in a heartbeat.

There's another lesson here for us and that is, these dramatic judgments show us that man refuses to respond in repentance even to God's judgment, even when he knows it is an act of God. Let me show you this. You remember back in chapter 6, chapter 6 after the sixth seal is opened, people are now aware this is not something just natural going on; this is God. And notice verse 15: "Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence 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 is able to stand?'"

Now, on the surface, you might think, Well, maybe, if they were given a chance, they would repent." Go over to chapter 9:20. Here's after the sixth trumpet sounds. Verse 20 says, "The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues [what?], did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts." Go over to chapter 16. Chapter 16:9, when the fourth angel pours out his bowl judgment (verse 8) and the sun begins to scorch men - here's the opposite of what happens that we saw tonight. Verse 9 says, "Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory." Verse 11, after the fifth angel pours out his bowl judgment, "and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds." Verse 21: "And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe."

Now, just think for a moment. You're on the planet. You are experiencing these catastrophic judgments and you become aware, as does everyone else on this planet, that this isn't natural. This is divine. This is God. How do you think you would respond? Well, let me tell you. And this is sobering for me, and I'm sure it'll be sobering for you. Apart from the intervening grace of God, you would respond the same way these people did.

Undoubtedly, when these disasters strike the planet, there will be summits called by political leaders. There will be emergency sessions in legislatures all around the globe. There will be a convening of the United Nations. There will be panels of scientists who will get together. They will all desperately seek answers to resolve these illogical disasters. They will try to lessen the damage these disasters have done to earth's ecosystems, but they will not be seeking the Lord and they will not repent.

You see, this teaches us a crucial lesson about salvation - about your salvation and about mine. If it weren't for grace, this would be us. We would be just as hard hearted, just as rebellious, just responding to the goodness of God without giving Him glory or giving Him thanks and responding to the judgments of God by blaspheming His name. Not even divine miracles are going to convince a sinner to believe. Isn't that what Jesus said in, you remember the story, of the rich man and Lazarus? The rich man says, "Please, send one of my - send someone who's been resurrected to my brothers, and they will believe." And you remember what Lazarus [he meant Abraham] says in the story? "[Listen] If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead." Case in point. I mean, think about the Roman soldiers who witnessed the resurrection. Think about the Sanhedrin, who heard first-hand testimony of the resurrection. What does this tell us? It tells us you ought to be grateful every moment of your life, and I ought to be grateful every moment of my life, that God intervened. Because if it weren't for grace, I can tell you where I'd be - wandering down some lonesome road to nowhere with my salvation up to me. And I know how that would go. And you do too. This is a reminder that only grace rescues sinners from their rebellion.

Another lesson I would mention to you is: if you're here tonight and you're not a Christian, today is the day of salvation. This is coming. These are realities. The world will end the way God has described it. It's ludicrous, it's frightening for you to postpone and say, "Well, maybe someday I'll seek reconciliation with God." The Scripture says, "Today is the day." "DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS ... AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS [and many of them died]", as Hebrews 3 says. Instead, trust in Jesus Christ. Trust in His life, lived in satisfying the justice of God, satisfying the law of God, I should say, on your behalf. He lived a perfect life. He was "born under the law", Galatians 4 says, "so that He might redeem those who were under the Law..." He lived the life you were supposed to live. And then, He died the death you had earned by your sin. If you will put your trust in Him, He died in your place. And then God raised Him from the dead. I plead with you, as Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians, "...we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Today is the day.

Another lesson is that God is perfectly just, and He will and must punish every sin. You know, we take sins so lightly. But if you want to see how bad sin is (I've often thought of this), go to the Garden of Eden. The sin that's in the world, the death that's come through sin, was the result of a single act of disobedience - eating from a tree God said, "Don't eat from that tree!" And this is what we have. That's how bad sin is, because every sinful act is filled with an ocean of sin. If you want to see how bad sin is, go to the cross. Look at Christ. As I will bring you to understand next week, if you had been the only sinner on this planet, if God had decided in eternity past that you were the only one elect, and that He wanted to save you, it would have required everything that Jesus Christ did. That's how bad sin is. God does and will punish sin. Don't play with God.

And then, finally, and I love this, this passage reminds us that God is such a gracious Savior, because the point of these plagues is not primarily judgment at this point. It is judgment, but it's also repentance. Twelve times it says, "only a third", "only a third", "only a third". Why? Because God is bringing judgment but, in wrath, He's remembering mercy. He's calling to repentance.

Look back at Exodus. I talked about the similarities between this and the plagues. I love Exodus 9. You've read, of course, how the plagues are unfolded on Egypt. I love this interchange between Moses and Pharaoh. Exodus 9:13: "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD [Yahweh], the God of the Hebrews, 'Let My people go, that they may serve Me. For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people [notice this], so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth.''" You know what God is saying? He says, "Listen. I'm not trying to destroy you with the plagues. If I were trying to destroy you, you would be destroyed." Verse 16: "But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth." Why? Obviously, for the glory of God, but also for the salvation of His elect - so that they could see. Even people in Egypt left Egypt with the children of Israel. They came to believe in the God of Israel. They came to believe in Yahweh. God was putting Himself on display, and in the centuries following the exodus from Egypt, there were others all over the planet. Even in Canaan, you remember, a woman named Rahab, who heard the great things that God had done in Egypt, and through that, came to believe in Him. So, even in the midst of wrath, in the midst of the Tribulation, God is remembering mercy, and He is proclaiming the gospel through the 144,000, others who've come to believe through their testimony, and He is drawing them to Himself because that's the nature of God. He doesn't find joy or delight in the death of the wicked but that all would come to repentance.

This is what will unfold in the future.

I just leave you tonight with that one reminder. Before you go to bed tonight, take time to thank the Lord that, in sovereign grace, He tenderized your heart; He drew you to Himself through the gospel; He gave you life, gave you repentance and faith because, if that weren't true, if it weren't for grace, if it weren't for His sovereign grace, you would be just like the people in Revelation who respond to God's goodness with disdain and ingratitude, and to His judgment with blasphemy. But God. But God.

Let's pray together.

Father, we are sobered by what we've studied tonight and yet, at the same time, our hearts are filled with joy. Joy, because You have shown us grace. We didn't deserve it. We would never have sought You out. We would've never responded to You. But, Lord, you drew us with the chords of love. You granted us new life. You gave us repentance and faith. Lord, we thank You for the gift of eternal life. Lord, we are so grateful that You will rescue us in Christ from the wrath that is to come. Fill our hearts with true joy and gratitude and, Lord, with a seriousness and a soberness about what's coming on this planet. Lord, remind us that if our Lord were to come tonight, the people we know would enter this horrific 7-year period called the Tribulation. Fill our hearts with the gospel, our hearts with prayer, for them. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen!

Revelation

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