The perspective: this age from vantage point of saints, their experience in the world. Go back to Abraham, promise of land of Canaan (Gen. 15:18-21). Viewed by Abraham as, in part, symbolic of greater Promised Land (Heb. 11:10, 14-16). But inheritance would not be actually appropriated until after 400 years of affliction. (Gen. 15:13)
The lot of the OT church – be brought by God out of Egypt to enter Promised Land. Two things hindered: Pharaoh and Jericho. Pharaoh making life difficult through persecution and hardship, Jericho by opposing forward advance into inheritance. Lot of both OT and NT church – be brought by God out of world to enter Heavenly rest. Two things hinder: persecution and hardship inflicted by evil people, city of man identified later as Babylon the Great systematically and officially opposing growth of the church.
Seven trumpet judgments cover inter-advental period, are more intense in effect than seal judgments; perhaps because of vantage point (camera angle), earth, they appear more devastating. Perhaps it’s the nature of apocalyptic literature, building toward final climax, the God-ordained goal of history. This vision, series of judgments, have many parallels in OT imagery. For all these reasons, are to be understood in light of the OT, not Press Herald.
John’s purpose isnot to foretell modern technology, indicate specific calamities, provide foundation for prophetic timeline by which to gauge how close to second coming we really are. Purpose is to make certain theological claims, present doctrinal principles about God’s government of his creation. John uses “highly symbolic language to describe the theological meaning of the on-going struggle between Christ and his already defeated foe, the Devil. John uses this highly symbolic language to paint a word picture of the final goal of redemptive history.” Riddlebarger
John sees many similarities between God’s dealing with OT Israel/Egypt and idolatrous world system of this age. Truths are intended to comfort and encourage saints, warn sinners. Just as God delivered Israel from Egypt, so God will deliver his church in the future. God’s sovereign rule over all things, providential care of his people key themes in both accounts. Important, then, to keep big picture in mind and fit individual details into that theme. Should not define theme on basis of individual elements or focus so intently on details we neglect big picture. Refer to Exodus comparison handout.
A. action starts v.2-4
get ready for an announcement: God’s angels with trumpets
used in Israel to bring people together to hear message from God; also used to assemble people for battle. (Judg. 3:27) In part what trumpets indicate here as God wages war on enemies of the church.
used by seven priests for seven days before fall of Jericho. Priests went before ark of tabernacle, blowing trumpets as walked around Jericho one time for six days. Seventh day, seven times around the city; on seventh circuit walls fell and city was destroyed. (Josh. 6:2-5) When seventh trumpet sounds indicating God’s final judgment has commenced, city of man or Babylon the Great falls.
the saints’ cry
made pleasing to God by incense – perhaps the angel is Christ, perhaps not; would not really be in character with previous imagery if it were, he is clearly distinct from angelic servants. Angel here is given incense to add to prayers already ascending from the altar. It is God who acts, giving incense to the angel, working on behalf of his people to purify their prayers, instructing angelic servant.
picture is of “prayers of all the saints”; corporate prayer model, not that of individuals. Individual prayer worthwhile, acceptable; yet God responds to united corporate prayer in special way. It was when 1st century followers of Christ were gathered together in prayer that God responded mightily: Acts 2:1-4; 4:23-31
cry for deliverance, cry for Christ’s kingdom to come, cry on behalf of persecuted saints (Ex. 2:23-25) If there’s anything that will hasten the completion of the church’s work on earth it is the prayers of the saints – that Christ will finish building his church, that his kingdom will be finished, that he will return in power and majesty to finally and eternally subdue his enemies, that he will finish his work of salvation and restoration.
B. God responds v.5-12
noises, thunderings, lightnings – proceeded from throne of God in Rev. 4:5; here an indication of God’s activity in response to prayers of saints, seen also in angels preparing to sound trumpets. Trumpets will announce God’s presence, his message of judgment on rebellious earth. It is the trumpet overture which signifies the action is about to begin.
Trumpets announce judgment first on four major regions of creation: dry land, sea, fresh water, and sky. Same as first four bowls (Rev. 16:1-9), more extensive damage than seals: 1/3 rather than 1/4 of creation affected. Direct target is idolatrous nations who have refused to worship true God. Same as target of plagues in Egypt – idolatrous Egyptians, not Hebrew children.
First trumpet: hail, fire and blood fall on the dry land; blending together of seventh plague (hail) and second seal – rider on red horse bringing war to the earth. Second trumpet: brings judgment on the sea and maritime commercial traffic or enterprise. First plague on Egypt – water turning to blood; couple that with image of eruption of Mount Vesuvius, AD 79, wreaking havoc on bay of Naples. Third trumpet: fouling of fresh water, another link to first plague. Will have devastating effect on human health by means of disease, famine and starvation. Fourth trumpet: diminished light, reminder of ninth plague and darkness that could be felt.
While not exclusively so, first four trumpets deal primarily with issues of physical hardship and suffering. Intended to serve as reminders of who is truly sovereign over creation, that Creator and not creation is to be worshiped. Just as plagues showed how powerless gods of Egypt were, so trumpet judgments demonstrate limitations of mankind and his power. God sets the limits for how far kingdom of darkness can advance against the church.
Yet important to see that, even in judgment throughout course of this age, God still shows mercy. Twelve times in course of trumpet judgments we’re told the effect is limited to 1/3. For some, feeling heat of God’s judgment serves to turn them away from their idols, to the true God. For others, same experiences harden their resolve to do it their own way.
“This storm (cyclone Yasi) is huge and it is life-threatening,” Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said. “I know many of us will feel that Queensland has already borne about as much as we can bear when it comes to disasters and storms, but more is being asked of us and I am confident that we are able to rise to this next challenge.” 02/01/2011
C. more to come v.13
time comes when even more fearsome torment and destruction will be unleashed on those who refuse to repent. Thrice-spoken woe: calamity in the superlative, three remaining trumpets. Following judgments have more prominent spiritual emphasis/effect compared to physical aspect of first four. Should not be surprising since it’s a spiritual battle with physical effects anyway. It’s between Satan and his agents on the one hand, Christ and his loyal servants on the other.
Truth be told, spiritual warfare more fearsome anyway. Cannot see the enemy, much more difficult to defend against. Highlights fact that essential weapons are spiritual, most effective is what is accomplished through prayer. Prayer is means God has ordained to meet needs of his people, the request to which he has purposed to respond. Seen clearly at beginning of chapter, God does move when his people cry out to him.
Also important to remember the saints will persevere and arrive safely home. More accurately, God will preserve his people from spiritual harm, ensuring their future safety with him. Once we are in God’s grasp, nothing can remove us from his hand, nothing can separate us from the love of God. He is our friend, our protector, the one persecuted Christians everywhere can depend on to bring them through their tribulation.