Saturday, August 22, 2020

What about the end times? (part 2)

We're going to pick up right where we left off last time--the seventh seal was opened, and silence filled heaven for half an hour. Although we're not told exactly why all of heaven was silent, I think it was probably a moment of grief for what is to follow: the seven trumpets.

What are the 7 trumpets of Revelation? – Part 1 (Rev 8 ...

Thunder, rumblings, lightning, and an earthquake start things off, then the first angel sounds his trumpet. We're told that hail and fire mixed with blood is cast down to earth, and 1/3 of the land is set on fire. It burs up 1/3 of the trees and scorches all the green grass. If all the horrors that came before weren't enough, you would think that this would get people's attention.

The second trumpet sounds, and a burning mountain is cast into the sea. It kills 1/3 of everything in the ocean, including wiping out 1/3 of the ships, and turns 1/3 of the water to blood. Taken with the first, it leads me to wonder about the possibility of an asteroid striking the earth.

The third trumpet sounds much the same as the second--the star "Wormwood" falls from heaven, turning 1/3 of all the rivers and springs bitter and poisonous. This disaster results in the death of many.

The fourth trumpet wipes out 1/3 of the lights in the sky, leaving us without sunlight for a third of the day and without lights in the sky for a third of the night.

And then here's something that really makes me pause for a second. It's at this point that we are told about a being, described as an eagle, flying around declaring "woe to the earth dwellers" because of what is about to happen. Think about that for a second. All this horror and disaster that has just been described, combined with the events that happened when the seals were opened, and we're getting a warning about how bad things are about to get.

The fifth trumpet starts it off with the abyss being opened. Black smoke rises from it that is thick enough to cover the sun. And from that smoke we see something unbelievable--something John first describes as locust, but goes on to say that they look like horses covered in war armor. He says they have what look like human faces and teeth like a lion, with iron plated armor and wings that sound like chariots rushing to battle. He also says their tails can sting like scorpions and cause torment to people.

Now, I've wondered a lot about these locust. I can't tell you for sure what they are. What I can say, though, is that John did his best to describe what he saw using the things with which he was familiar. Personally, there are two ideas that I go back and forth between when I'm trying to think about what these might be. My first thought, which is probably the more mainstream and logical, is to think that John was describing some sort of machine. Maybe a personal vehicle of war, something that will be used as a weapon by an army that tortures the people of the earth for the 5 months John describes. My other thought, arguably the more "out there" idea, is that these creatures from the abyss are demons given a physical form, much like the insectoid, mechanical-looking aliens we've dreamed up in so many movies.

Whatever the case, though, that's not really what's important. The important part of this section is the power they are given. Revelation 9:4-5 says, "However, they were instructed not to damage any grasses, plants, or trees that grow from the earth. Instead, they were given power for five months to torture, but not to kill, the people without the seal of Go upon their foreheads. The torment they inflicted was like the sting of a scorpion when it strikes."

If you'll remember, back in Revelation 7 we heard about the 144,000 who would receive the seal of God, a mark that they were His people. This was one of those places where I tend to have a different view--as I said, I fully believe the 144,000 sealed are from the literal tribes of Israel (as verses 4-9 say). I have no doubt that there are people from every group in the world who will be in heaven as God's children (we're told that very thing in verse 9), but I don't think we are included in those who are sealed. That means, as much as I don't like the idea of it, that I fall into the group that the "locust" of chapter 9 are allowed to torture. Even in the midst of that five months of torture, though, we have a promise. Despite the power given to them, they don't have the power to kill. It may not seem like much of a promise, knowing it means we will be tortured. I think it's a pretty important one, though, and it reminds me of this verse: "Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise—slow is how some people want to characterize it—no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path and to turn toward God’s." (2 Peter 3:9) By allowing the torture but not death, God is giving all of us the opportunity to be witnesses in the midst of suffering so others can turn to Him.

The sixth trumpet is next, and it brings a cavalry of 200,000,000 bringing with them plagues that wipe out 1/3 of humanity. It may sound like a metaphor, but think about it this way: these "horses" are described as being armored, with heads like lions, and breathing fire. To me, that could easily be John trying to wrap his mind around some sort of armored vehicle and describe what he saw in terms his readers could understand. If that were the case, it's not so far-fetched to think of the plagues being spewed from their "mouths" as biological warfare.

What follows is a very sad, very familiar statement on humanity: despite all they've seen, the people refuse to turn away from the evil things they're chasing and choose to turn their backs on God. They decide instead to continue to worship powerless gods created by men.

We have a bit of an interruption here, a warning from one of the powerful messengers of Heaven: when the seventh trumpet is heard, the day of God will come. That will mean His judgment, and that isn't a cozy thought.

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