It’s another case of history repeating
Revelation 4 and 5 give us a picture of the heavenly throne room as it has always been – and then the moment where the Lamb opens the seals.
Revelation 6-8:5 gives us the first picture of human history and God’s judgement of the world through human tyranny.
Our passage begins with the 7 trumpets; the second symbol which repeats the pouring out of judgement on all of history, since the fall. As we watch the next action replay of human history, the focus shifts to the chaos of God’s world.
One of the important elements to think about in this section is to ask – how does this build on the picture that we have already seen? And what is different in this section, which ought draw our attention?1. The topical change from Tyranny to Chaos ought to give us a different picture of the judgement of God and his sovereignty over the world.2. The interlude of Revelation 10 and 11 is distinct and different to the picture presented in Revelation 6. The shift in focus here to the one who speaks the bittersweet words of God ought to be for us, is a shift that is worthy of our attention.
This is an enormous section to digest all at once. I recommend:1. Read 8:6-13 and 9:20-21. Get the vibe that this is a repeated moment of looking at the same thing as last week. Establish that God judges this world through the chaos into which this world is subjected. Perhaps a quick comparison with the serenity with Eden (Gen 2) and establishing that nature itself will work against the cause of humanity (Gen 3: 17-19) might assist you here. Look then at the response of humanity. What is God going to do to shift the heart of this ignorant, evil people (us)?2. Move to a more focused analysis of Chapters 10, be more cursory in 11:1-14 and look for detail in 11:15-19.
Revelation 8:6-13, 9:20-21
The first 4 pictures here are of chaos within the natural orders of this world. We see the earth (1), the seas (2), rivers and springs (3) and the cosmos (4) all subject to the judgement of God. It is a very similar picture that we see in Romans 8:18-25 – where the whole earth is groaning, waiting for the Revelation of Christ, waiting for its liberation from decay.
Trumpets 5 and 6 (Rev 9) talk about Spiritual chaos, where our world is subject to the Spiritual assaults of the forces of evil as people who have sinned and belonged to the kingdom of Satan.
And yet, amongst all of this – humanity does not respond with repentance, but with vain ignorance. They go on in their lives, persisting in evil and doing evil. Revelation 9:20-21 is incredibly significant here.
There is a really important moment of social analysis here: Without the revelation of God – people are not capable of lifting their eyes to see what they are like, what the world is like and what God is like. People are stuck – either trying andfailing to reign in a chaotic world or simply shrugging and getting on with life in ignorance.
Revelation 10 – Prophesy!
In verses 1-4 we see a picture of an enormous majestic angel… and he holds open a tiny little scroll… the word of God. I think that we are supposed to see the contrast here – the extreme power of God is held within something so small – and it was there to be an encouragement to the church, who felt small weak and beat up at that point in time.
And in verse 6 – the Angel speaks “There will be no more delay! The 7th trumpet will sound… the final judgement day is coming soon. It echoes much of the New Testament – that Christ will be returning soon on a day and hour that we do not know. And it is worth seeing in verse 7 that this had ‘already been declared to his servants.’ What we have here is the word of God – the gospel of Jesus who saves.
And in verse 9 – it is a bitter sweet message. This is the great message of the gospel – that if we trust in Jesus Christ, we are saved. To the one who is saved, salvation is as sweet as honey. But it is a message which turns your stomach. We digest this message amongst a world which is persisting in evil (9:20-21)and who currently live outside of the Kingdom of God. The instruction is given that we must prophesy to and about people and nations and kings – reminding and pleading with people to turn and trust Christ.
In this passage it functions as a recommissioning of John to preach the word of God, even from his island in Patmos. As an application to us, it reminds us that this is the mission which Christ is on about, and which our church is on about. We are called to be people who speak boldly into a world which is exactly like Rev 9:20-21. Because without the revelation from God, people are stuck in a world that cannot be tamed.
Revelation 11 – Persecution
In Revelation 11, what follows is a story of 2 prophets – which is probably actually about 2 prophets living in the time of John … and again this is adding to the “bitter” picture of being a prophet. The city is Jerusalem, and the situation is dangerous – the city is about to be given to the gentiles who will destroy the temple, permanently (alluding to 70AD). But 2 witnesses will stand up and testify. For 3 and a half years (a significant time, but not forever) they will testify to the work of Jesus.
But after that time, in verse 7, God will allow the chaotic forces controlled by Satan to overpower them and kill them. This will happen in a very public way.
The allusion in verse 11-13 of resurrection has sparked a bit of debate. My view is that there is allusion to the reality that our journey mirrors that of Christ. For these Christians who had died, they are bound up in the resurrected life that is with Christ. The earthquake in 13 was likely an earthquake that happened – and the response of people within the city was to fearfully give praise to God. But importantly, the earthquake is significant because the city FINALLY see that God is in charge amongst the chaos. Where in 9:20 they are ignorant; here in 11:13 they see the sign and give glory to God.
Two key points are worth noting here. 1. Being someone who opens your mouth and speaks about Jesus is a dangerous business. But we can do it with confidence, because our life is bound with Christ in his death AND in his resurrection which we will participate in on his return. 2. A right response to God is one where we see beyond the chaos to see a God who is powerfully in control.
We get the final trumpet sound and we hear the declarations of heaven. Verse 15 proclaims the entrance of God’s kingdom. But 17-18 fill out the response that we should have as we reflect on God in amongst the chaos. He is the one with great power who has begun to reign in a new way. The finality of his judgement is about to happen. Vindication is coming for those prophets and for those who trusted in Jesus. And destruction is coming for those who have participated in the kingdom of Satan and who were involved in the destruction of the earth.
And this image is finished off in verse 19 with the flashes of lightning, peals of thunder… just like the end of the last section in Rev 8:5. But it adds to it an earthquake and hailstorm (which we saw in this section) to emphasise the point it has made. God is sovereign and his judgement of chaos is designed for us to see that he is in fact God and to respond to him with reverence and faith.