TRUMPET CALL Revelation 8–9
“Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded” (Rev. 8:13).The certainty of judgment brings home the full meaning of Christmas.
The opening of the seventh seal reveals seven trumpets, representing even more severe judgments that are released on the earth (8:1–9:19). But even these crushing blows fail to bring mankind’s survivors to repentance (vv. 20–21).
Understanding the Text
“He opened the seventh seal” Rev. 8:1–2. My wife has a set of nesting canisters. Each one, a bit smaller than the other, fits neatly inside its larger companion. The judgments of Revelation are something like this. The seventh seal is opened, to reveal seven trumpets. When the seventh trumpet finally sounds, watching eyes will discover within seven bowls filled with God’s wrath. As we read Revelation, it seems that the judgments never stop, but roll on and on in an unending series of terrifying events. As we look at each one, it seems these chapters are hardly suited for Christmas reading. Where is the Babe of Bethlehem in these awful descriptions of blazing mountains, a smoking abyss, and demonic tormentors of mankind? But He is here. He is here, for in the description of the judgments that mark history’s anguished end, we sense the reason for the Incarnation. Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again, that you and I might escape the punishments described here. He was born that all who believe might pass from the darkness into the light, from death to life, from anguish into joy. “With the prayers of all the saints” Rev. 8:3–5. This is a stunning image. Suddenly the censor that contains the prayers of the saints is taken from a golden altar, filled with burning coals, and hurled out on the earth below. That which held the praise, the thanksgiving, the joys of Jesus’ own, becomes a tool of judgment, convulsing earth itself. How can this be? Perhaps because God’s judgment is the vindication of His saints. His punishments are meted out on those who have persecuted and murdered godly men and women. But there seems to be even more than this. The prayers of those who have come to know the Lamb express a holiness to which all men are called, but many refuse. In the very contrast between the righteous and the evil, the worshiper and the rebel, the doom of the lost is sealed. Why don’t all see the real meaning of Christmas? Why don’t all look beyond the wrapped packages, the laden tables, the holiday songs and the repeated portrayals of the Grinch who almost stole Christmas, or the Miracle on 34th Street? Why don’t all see Christ, born to die, an Infant destined to be offered up for us all? Why do not men realize that, if they will not have the Christ Child now, they will most certainly receive judgment from His mighty hand? “Hail and fire mixed with blood” Rev. 8:6–12. The limitations of language make it impossible for us to know just what John describes. The images of the blazing mountain and the fiery star hurtling on earth are terrifying enough. The darkening of familiar heavenly bodies is even worse. Whatever these images used by John may really be, their effect is clear enough. A third of earth’s vegetation, seas, and waters are destroyed, and millions die. What a contrast, this, with brightly lit houses with sparkling trees set prominently in front of living room windows. What a reminder that the choice God sets before is one of joy, or endless loss. “The key to the shaft of the Abyss” Rev. 8:13–9:12. The former judgments might be classified as natural catastrophes. Despite their impact on the earth, materials from the physical universe were used to achieve them. Now, however, hordes of hostile spiritual beings are unleashed. Demons, in the form of something like locusts, torment the remaining inhabitants of earth. Even today there are those who choose to worship Satan, expecting some protection or gain. How foolish such people now are seen to be. Satan and his hordes have always hated humankind. Given the opportunity, the released demons cause such agony that men crave death. And death is denied. Today there is a choice all men may make. And each Christmastime everyone, everywhere, is reminded of a Child who became a Man—and waits to welcome them home to heaven. “The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million” Rev. 9:12–21. Yet another supernatural horde is unleashed against mankind. And this swarm kills. There is no skepticism now. The supernatural is known by all to be real. Many today scoff or shrug at the supernatural, and believe, with the ancients, that the material universe is all that exists. Many demand proof or they will not believe. But if they had the proof, would they believe then? Verses 20 and 21 tell us. Despite the evident nature of the judgment, the rest of mankind “did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold. . . . Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.” It is not proof mankind needs. It is to heed the Word of God, and let God work a change within their hearts.
“Give Me Love”(Rev. 9:12–21)
Every now and then Sarah crawls up in her mother’s lap and says, “Give me love.” They hug and pat each other, coo and smile, and feel especially close. Mom and daughter. Christmas is just such a time for us. “Give me love,” is Jesus’ way. We gather around Him, eager to hug and be hugged. Eager to be reminded of His love, and eager to affirm ours as well. There’s something about love that draws us. And there’s something about punishment that repels. We see that in our home too. Even when punishment is well deserved, and Sarah knows it, the lower lip sullenly protrudes. She looks accusingly out of angry eyes, and sometimes even shouts out her feelings that it’s all unfair. This is a contrast we need to see this Christmastime, as we read of God’s terrible judgments on a sinful human race—and feel shocked that Revelation reports, they “still did not repent.” They did not change their minds or change their ways. That’s why Christmas is such an appropriate expression of our faith. It’s God reminding us that He has heard our cry of “give me love.” And He has given love in the Christ Child whose birth we celebrate. As long as the world has Christmas, God reaches out to give us love, and the door of salvation is open wide. Oh, let us speak to others of this love, before the judgment comes, and hardened hearts are frozen in a rebellion that will lock them away from love for all eternity.
Share the love of God with others this Christmastime.
“The innkeeper who gave Mary and Joseph a Christmas Eve cave should be a holiday model for Christians as they celebrate the birth of the Messiah. That’s because that Middle Eastern Howard Johnson had the simple consideration to think beyond the ’no’ that could have easily been his complete conversation with the visiting strangers who came to his door. “In contrast, many Christians who honor the child born that night say no all the time to strangers during the very time of year when they should be opening their doors to the lonely, forgotten, and alienated.”—James Greig