Friday, May 23, 2014

Revelation - Lesson 17

The Temple & Two Witnesses - Revelation 11:1-14

Prayer: Lord, there is more here than we can take in easily, but please help us to take in what we are able & live out our lives with an understanding that none of these things are confusing or a surprise to you.  Lord, as we see trouble all around us in the world help us to look to this book as a book of hope, knowing that no matter what troubles come you are still in control, and knowing that you care about each individual.  Amen!

I want to take a moment to remind us where we are in the narrative before we continue.  We are within the 3rd & & final & largest portion of the book of Revelation, a portion that started in Chapter 4, the portion that is "after these things" (meta touta).  I call this the 3rd portion because that's what the Lord called it in Revelation 1:19 when He told John to write down this book.

Within this portion of Revelation we have already studied about John in the throne room of heaven, the unsealing of the 7-sealed scroll, the 144,000 sealed servants of God, and 5 of the 7 trumpets.

We are currently in the midst of studying the 6th trumpet which started at Revelation 9:13.  So far since this trumpet has sounded this is what we've studied: 4 bound angels (fallen) were released in order to kill 1/3 of all remaining mankind with an army of 200 million, a mighty angel with a little scroll stood on the earth and the sea with a scroll, and John obediently took and ate the scroll because God had more for him to prophecy.

This lesson will finish the events surrounding the 6th trumpet, and will complete the second woe - the first woe is associated with the 5th trumpet & there is a third woe yet to come.

Revelation 11:1-2 - John is given a reed to be used as a measuring rod.  This might sound strange to us, but there is a bamboo-like reed that grew along the Jordan river that was straight, lightweight, and grew to about 20 feet in height.  It was a convenient measuring tool that was commonly used.

John is told to go and measure the temple & altar, and to count the worshipers there.  He is specifically told not to measure or count the outer court because it has been given over to the Gentiles (or to the nations) to be trampled for 42 months (3 1/2 years).  Is this time frame literal or figurative?  I think it's literal, but there are those who don't, enough said.  

To give you an idea of size, my NIV Study Bible says in the notes that the outer court is estimated to be about 26 acres in size (if a square would be about 354x354 yards).

A bit of history on the temple, because we have to ask "which temple is this?".  Depending on how you count them, there are as few as 3 or as many as 7 temples, so here we go:

  1. Technically not a temple, the first house for God built was the Tabernacle, an elaborate portable structure built during the time of the Exodus.  The plans for which were given to Moses by God.
  2. Solomon's temple (frequently referred to as the 1st temple).  The plans for which were given to David (Solomon's father) by God, the funding provided by David, but David was not allowed by God to build this.  David's son Solomon was chosen to build this temple.  Said to be more beautiful even than Herod's later very elaborate temple.
  3. Zerubbabel's temple (referred to as the 2nd temple), built up from the ruins of Solomon's temple upon the Israelite's return from Babylonian Captivity.  This was a simple structure, causing those who remembered it's predecessor to weep.
  4. Herod's temple (still considered the 2nd temple), was an expansion/remodel of Zerubbabel's.  This was huge & quite elaborate, it is said that the stones of the temple were covered in Gold Leaf.  It was known as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world.  It was torn down after Jerusalem fell in 70 AD, and as prophesied by Jesus not one stone was left on another.  It was demolished & burned, some believe this was so the Roman conquerors could take the gold.
  5. Tribulation Temple (?), since worship has been re-established in the midst of the Tribulation period there is believed to be a temple during that time - probably not the same as Ezekiel's temple (this might possibly be the 3rd temple).  In case you think this isn't possible in our day, think twice - there are already plans drawn up for the temple.
  6. Millennial Temple / Ezekiel's temple (this might be the 3rd, or perhaps the 4th), detailed in the book of Ezekiel, starting in chapter 40, believed to be a temple to be built/rebuilt during the Millenium.
  7. Temple in Heaven - which is actually the original for which the pattern was set for all the earthly structures.

So, which temple is this?  At this point in our narrative John is recording things future to his time on earth, but even at the time of John's writing Herod's temple was already destroyed.  So the temple in question is one that is yet to be built in our time (if it's a literal temple), is it Ezekiel's temple?  Is it a temple specific to the Tribulation?  Good Question!!

Some think it is a temple in heaven.  I think this idea doesn't merit consideration simply because the outer court & holy city (Jerusalem) are "trampled" by Gentiles (or nations).

Some think it is a figurative temple, they point to scriptures like Ephesians 2:19-22 which describes a holy temple who's foundation is the apostles & prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone, and built out of the people of God - a temple where God dwells.  Though this is a possibility, again the reference to the outer court & holy city being trampled leads me to believe this is not the case.

Getting back to the potential for building a temple today, there are issues that need to be overcome - primarily the Muslim control of the temple mount.  In 1967 Israel regained portions of Jerusalem, but not the temple mount. There is a group of devout Jews that have formed the Temple Institute, a group dedicated to rebuilding the temple.  They have already made most of the implements needed to reinstate temple worship, have trained up priests to serve in the temple, and have elaborate plans made for the temple buildings themselves.  Many point to the Muslim Dome of the Rock as being in the way of a temple being rebuilt, and this is the location that the Temple Institute has chosen as the location of their temple, but this might not be the actual site of the original temple.  There are 3 locations on the temple mount that people believe are the original site of the temple:

  1. Traditional Location - this is the location currently favored by the Temple Institute.  This would place the temple squarely on top of the current location of the Dome of the Rock.  Some believe that the Dome of the Rock was placed there specifically to obscure the spot where the Ark of the Covenant would have been located, but this is speculation likely brought on by prejudice (more on the history in a moment).
  2. Northern Conjecture - located to the North of the Traditional Location, would place the Dome of the Rock in the outer court.  This location came in style a while back, but fell out of style because of some problems when compared to historical accounts.
  3. Southern Conjecture - located to the South of the Traditional Location, and a position held by many Bible scholars.  Historical information tells us that King Agrippa could see into the area of the sacrifices, this would place the temple toward the south.  Also, there is historical information about an aqueduct that fed into the temple, and again this would place the temple on the southern portion of the temple mount - any other location on the temple mount would make it nearly impossible (because of altitude) to get water via aqueduct.  If this is the correct location there are no current religious structures in the way of the temple being rebuilt at this site - though I'm sure it would receive objections, especially from the Muslim world.

70 AD - Jerusalem fell, the temple was destroyed.
135 AD - To keep control of the locals the Romans (under Hadrian) demolished the city of Jerusalem & built a roman city on top.  At this time a Temple to Jupiter was built over the site of the Jewish Temple.
Jerome - an ancient Historian, noted that an Equestrian Statue of Hadrian was placed over the Holy of Holies (or Most Holy Place).

There is a Temple to Jupiter designed & built in the same timeframe by the same architect in Baalbek Lebanon (which was also under Hadrian).  If you lay the plans for that over the current temple mount, you find that some buildings today still reflect the locations of buildings from the Temple to Jupiter.  The buildings in that location have been destroyed by earthquakes & rebuilt, they were overrun by Christians in the 3rd century & used for Christian purposes.  They were later overrun by Muslims & repurposed for their uses.  When you overlay these plans on the current structures it places the Holy of Holies where there currently is a fountain, and at the location of the Southern Conjecture.

Now that we've gotten through the history, why was John asked to measure it?  We're not given the measurements, only that he was supposed to measure it.  There are a couple of thoughts here, one is that measuring was frequently done for the purpose of protection or preservation - and God may have been indicating his protection or preservation of the worshipers.  Another thought is that the measuring is being done for the purpose of reconstruction.  In any case we don't know why, we can only guess.

Revelation 11:3-6 - These two witnesses, spoken of in only a handful of verses, have been the subject of much debate.  Are the literal?  Are they figurative?  I'm going to treat them as literal so we don't get hung up to much here, but keep in mind there are those that think they are figurative of Israel & the Church, or of the Old & New Testament.

Who are these witnesses?  These are the major views for those who think these are literal people:
  • Witness #1: There are many scriptures that point to one of them being Elijah, so most scholars who take this literally have Elijah as one (though it may be one like John the Baptist who comes in the Spirit of Elijah).
  • Witness #2: For the second witness there is more argument, here are the possibilities:
  • John himself - since he has just eaten the scroll & was told he needed to prophecy.  This is one of the weakest positions, and would have John witness his own death (later in the chapter).
  • Enoch - the other character besides Elijah that was taken up & never died.  Those who think this base it on Hebrews 9:27 which speaks of man being appointed to only die once - yet we know of a couple examples in scripture of people raised from the dead who died again later.  The Hebrews passage is really meant to speak against reincarnation.
  • Moses - this is based upon his appearance at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17), and upon the powers that are described for the two witnesses (more on that in a bit).  Also, along with Elijah, he is believed to have an unfinished ministry.
  • Some think these are simply two faithful who have on them the Mantle (Spirit / Power) of Moses & Elijah.

The two have power to prophesy for 1,260 days - again 3 1/2 years, believed to be 1st half of the tribulation.  If they have indeed been witnessing for the 1st half of the tribulation then they've been around through all the stuff up to this point (starting at chapter 4).  They are clothed in sackcloth - the garb of a prophet & also the garb of the grieving.

They are called the two Olive Trees - perhaps because they represent Israel or the Old Testament.  They are also called the two Lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth - perhaps because they represent the true Church (2 of the churches in Revelation 2-3 received no condemnation) or the New Testament.

Their specific powers (other than prophecy):
  • Fire at their command to devour their enemies (Elijah) - anyone who wants to harm them must die (v5)
  • Shut up the sky so there is no rain (Elijah)
  • Turn waters to blood (Moses)
  • Variety of Plagues (Moses)

Revelation 11:7-10 - When they have finished - God is protecting them & has appointed not only the period of time they will witness, but the specific time at which they will be attacked & killed.  Once their testimony is complete & they have finished the work God sent them to do they are vulnerable, a new creature comes on the scene - the beast from the Abyss, perhaps the one who was in charge of the Abyss.  This beast attacks, overpowers, and kills them.

This happens in a city figuratively called Sodom & Egypt, but we know from verse 8 saying "where their Lord was crucified" that this is Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is spoken of figuratively  in the Old Testament as being Spiritual Sodom (Isaiah 3:8-9 & Jeremiah 23:14) and as being Spiritual Egypt (Ezekiel 23:1-4), I'll let you look up those references for yourself.

They will lie dead in the street of Jerusalem for 3 1/2 days, and everyone in the world (every people, tribe, language, nation) will gaze on them.  Until modern-day times we couldn't conceive of this being possible, but in our current digital age we can see news events live around the world.  The peoples of the world will refuse to bury them, and instead they will celebrate.  There are some even today, and their numbers are growing, who will be so relieved to no longer feel the guilt of the witness of believers that they will celebrate in a manner like our modern-day Christmas (think of the irony).  This is the only time in the book of Revelation when the world rejoices.

Revelation 11:11-12 - God will not leave them on the street any longer, after 3 1/2 days He breaths life back into them, they are resurrected in full view of all the people of the earth - and the people of the earth are struck with terror.  God then calls these two witnesses up to Himself, they are raptured up to heaven while the world watches.

Revelation 11:13-14 - The witnesses are removed, the sixth trumpet & second woe are completed with a severe earthquake that destroys 1/10th (or a tithe) of the city.  Seven thousand are killed as a result of the earthquake in the city, and the survivors give glory to God in the midst of their terror - is this a true repentance on their part?  Unknown.

Your Summer-School homework assignment: Before we meet again I'd encourage you to study what we've covered so far on your own.  You can use the blog to help you if you'd like:, look for the tab on Revelation.  That tab not only contains links to all the lessons we've had so far (this is the 16th) but also gives  references to some of the materials I've studied.  After you've spent time studying in detail go back through once again and simply read Revelation 1:1-11:14.  This assignment should take you all Summer, and will prepare you to continue when we pick back up in the Fall.  If along the way you have any questions you can e-mail me at, or save them for our first day back in Fall which will be a day for review as well as Q&A. 

Prayer:  Lord, this book is so thick with imagery and details that it's hard to digest in more than a little nibble at a time, yet at the same time if looked at as a singularity it is a book of purpose & promise & hope.  Help us to not loose sight of the message of hope in this book, a message that tells us You are in control, a message that tells us You have already determined the outcome & You will be victorious.  We don't know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future!  Amen!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Revelation - Lesson 16

A Mighty Angel - Revelation 10

Prayer: Lord, once again I ask for wisdom.  Wisdom for my words, wisdom for all of our hearts and minds, wisdom to read & understand your message, and wisdom to apply that message to our lives in some way.  If nothing else Lord, help us to come away from these passages with an increased awe & wonder of you.  Amen!

Most who have spent serious time in study of the New Testament would point to Paul as one who was an amazing intellect.  I'm going to read you something written by this amazing intellect, and he was speaking in general about knowing & understanding God - after all the book of Revelation wasn't written yet when Paul penned the letter in question.  I want to do this to remind us all that no matter how hard we try, this side of eternity, we are not going to fully understand.  Should we seek to understand the full breadth of scripture? Yes!  It should be a lifelong pursuit.  We should seek not only to understand, but to take in what is written & live it out in our lives.  Though I don't expect we will live through the events explained in these chapters, there are still truths about God to be learned through them - as we grow in wisdom & understanding of God & His ways it will help us to love Him more fully & more rightly for who He is.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12: "Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I become a man I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see (as if looking through a fogged window); then we shall se face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 

Paul understood that there is a big difference between how a child thinks & how an adult thinks; even more, there is a tremendous difference between how a man thinks and how God thinks.  Paul longed to understand the mind of God, to think/talk/reason like God, but knew that in comparison to God he was (at best) childish.  Paul knew that God's mind was out of his grasp.  God's wisdom is so deep that we could drown trying to grasp it, it is more than our mortal minds are able to handle... and I suspect that even in eternity, in our perfected state, we will still be unable to fully comprehend His wisdom.  How can those who are limited & created understand the unlimited Creator?  Even the angels don't understand... 

So once again, with much humility, I am going to attempt to help us understand this book...

Revelation 10:1-4 - It is hard for us, in our English language, and in our culture, to grasp some of the subtleties here.  First we hear the word "Angel" & think of pretty winged beings with halo's; in reality, the word Angel simply means "messenger".  Second, we think all Angels, those created beings who serve God, are all of the same "kind".  We already know, if we've studied the scriptures, that there is more than one kind of created heavenly being - in Revelation alone we've seen the 4 living creatures as well as a multitude of others called Angels.  In other places in scripture we hear of Cherubim & Seraphim, and of an Archangel.  On the Fallen side, we hear of fallen angels & demons and apparently there are differences between the two - some being able to take physical form & others who attempt to inhabit (posses) a physical host.  Just look at creation around us, is there just one kind of animal or bird or flower or tree?  Why would we think God would be any less creative with those we call Angels?  We must be careful not to make assumptions & place limitations on God's creation.  There are also times in the Old Testament scriptures when we were told of the "Captain of the Lord's Host" - believed to be a pre-incarnate visit of Christ because He allowed himself to be worshiped & un-fallen angels don't allow themselves to be worshiped.  It makes sense that God would be the captain of His own heavenly host - even in our U.S. government our President is the Commander in Chief of our nation's armed forces.

We are told in the beginning of verse 1 that this is "another mighty angel", and there is a subtlety in the Greek language that we miss.  In Greek there are two different words that can be used to mean "another" - one means another of the same kind, and the other means another of a different kind.  The Greek used here means another of the same kind.

There are some who say that this one called a mighty angel here is Christ, and they say this because of the description of his appearance, but Christ has no equal - and if this is "another mighty angel" of the same kind John has already experienced then this cannot be Christ.  What's interesting, and we'll see this as we go on, is that even if this is interpreted as being Christ it does not harm the interpretation of the passage as a whole.  This mighty angel is going from heaven to earth & has a very specific roll to fulfill.

In the second half of verse 1 we start to get his description:
  • Robed in a Cloud - not concealed, but dressed in a manner reminding us of God coming in his Shekhinah Glory.
  • Rainbow above his Head - headgear that is the symbol of a promise of God to man.
  • Face like the Sun - shining as if a reflecting the pure light of God
  • Legs like Fiery Pillars - fiery pillars which remind of the Exodus where there were pillars (one of cloud & one of fire) of guidance & protection.
  • He is Huge - from verse 2 he learn he is huge (if taken literally) since he stands with one foot on the land & another on the sea.  The fact that he can stand "on" the sea would again cause some to think this is Christ.
  • He can roar like a Lion - from verse 3 we learn that he can give a shout like a roar of a Lion, again causing some to think of Christ since He is the Lion of the house of Judah.  It is said that a full roar of an adult male lion is so powerful it actually causes the ground to shake.  So I did a bit of research, apparently Lions & Tigers have unusual vocal chords which allow them to make these large sounds.  A Lion can roar at around 114 decibels (see charts).  Under proper conditions it is said that a lion's roar can be heard from as far away as 5 miles, and is a means of communication.

Whoever this mighty angel is, he strongly represents God & we'll see in the next few verses that he acts on God's behalf.  Some think this may be Gabriel - the angel that appears when a proclamation is to be made.  Others think this might be Michael or another an Archangel (Michael is the only one identified in scripture, though Hebrew tradition holds that there are seven).  Michael's name means "who is like God?" - implying that there is none that is God's equal, though perhaps an Archangel is the closest representation.  The truth is we don't know who this is - but his description is pretty amazing.

What is this mighty angel doing?  He is standing on the earth with one foot on the sea & one on the land.  Is this literal or figurative?  We don't know for certain, but at the very least it is representative of the entire surface of the earth (land & sea).  He is holding a little scroll (we'll get back to this in a bit), and he gives a loud shout like the roar of a lion.  What does he shout?  Is it simply a roar of sorts?  We don't know.

When he shouts there is a response.  The voices of the seven thunders speak - ok now this is just weird.  First of all these are "the seven thunders", not just any old seven thunders, and they are saying something that John heard & understood & was prepared to write down.  Needless to say this is not what we normally think of as thunder.  Is this God's voice thundering with seven proclamations?  Are these seven special created beings that speak in thundering voices?  Are there seven different messages or 1 message given by seven voices? I give up, I simply don't know.  What do they say?  John is forbidden from writing it down & letting us know, forbidden by a voice from heaven - it is a mystery.  I'll admit I'm curious, even a bit frustrated, but apparently there are words that God is yet to communicate but has not recorded in the scriptures, these words are not for us - or at least not for us at this time.  We must remember who we are in comparison to God & trust His wisdom - God is just as deliberate about what He does not say as He is about what he does say, this is part of the beauty & wonder of scripture.

Now to the little scroll - what is it?  There are those who think it is the same scroll that Christ has just finished un-sealing.  The term used here as "little scroll" is different from that used previously, so it is probably not the same scroll - but we can't say that definitively simply from the name.  There are others who think this is the scriptures or words of prophecy, especially because of what happens to the scroll later in the chapter, but we'll get to this in a bit.  Whatever it is it has significance, but exactly what it is we simply don't know.

Revelation 10:5-7 - The mighty angel raises his right hand and makes an oath, an oath to our Eternal Creator God.  John chapter 1 tells us that Jesus was directly and actively involved in Creation, again this points to this "mighty angel" not being Christ; however, there are times recorded in the scriptures when God takes an oath on His own name - so this act does not give us a definitive answer.  He declares that once the 7th Trumpet sounds there will be no more delay, the mystery of God as announced to the prophets will be accomplished.  What does this encompass?  A good portion of the Old Testament, perhaps specifically those portions that speak of "the day of the Lord's wrath".  I'm not even going to try to go beyond that except to say that much was written about the end times before the book of Revelation - more than is contained in Revelation itself - and that a full understanding of the end times (which isn't humanly possible by the way) can only be approached by having a strong understanding of all the scriptures (Genesis to Revelation).

Does this proclamation mean that any opportunity for repentance is past?  Some think this is the case, but then why would God bother to have a Millennium period?  Again, we're left looking through a foggy window... and just not able to grasp completely.

Revelation 10:8-11 - This is one of those times when knowledge of our Old Testament passages can be enlightening. Psalm 119:103 - tells us that God's words are sweeter than honey to the mouth.  Psalm 34:8 & 1 Peter 2:2-3 - tell us to taste the Lord, to experience Him, and see that He is good.  These passages are telling us to know God, to experience Him, to live through Him.  How do we go about coming to know God?  We read the scriptures with the help of the Holy Spirit, we pray, we listen, and we trust God to walk with us no matter what comes our way. 

God tells John to go to this mighty angel who holds the scroll in his open hand, and to take the scroll.  John has already been given God's dictate, but he remains respectful and asks the angel for the scroll instead of simply taking it - interesting.  The angel gives John further instruction - not to simply take the scroll but to eat it.  The angel also warns that though it will taste like honey to the mouth it will turn his stomach sour.  John does what he is told, it tasted as sweet as honey but turned his stomach sour.  What is the purpose of John eating this scroll?  To prepare him to prophecy further, a prophesy about (not necessarily to) many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.  Perhaps this scroll contained the words of the prophecy, perhaps it turned John's stomach sour because it was a prophecy of suffering - bad news rather than good.

This is not the first time God has used this imagery of eating a scroll, take some time and look at Ezekiel chapters 1-3, especially the first half of chapter 3.  Ezekiel experienced some of the same things John did, but with a different calling specifically to the people of Israel for the purpose of repentance.  The scroll he ate also tasted as sweet as honey to his mouth, but did not turn his stomach sour.

Prayer:  Lord, so much we're not told, so much we are trying to grasp, and we come away only just beginning to understand.  Lord we know that there is a purpose to this book, a purpose beyond challenging us to understand, and we know there is a blessing to it as well.  Help us to grow to love you more through this study, and to understand your ways, and to live lives fully committed to you.  Amen!!

Reflection & Prayer: 
  • Think about the last week.  Did you set aside time for study?  Did you set aside time for prayer?  Did you stop to listen & meditate on God & His word?  Did you have the opportunity to speak God's word to others?  Did you speak or hold back?  
  • Take a few moments to think about God, His holiness, His power, His heart.  Think about all God has done to reach out to fallen mankind, meditate on His goodness.  Think about how small & limited we are compared to our all-powerful & all-wise God.
  • What is your response?

Take some time to pray with one another.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Revelation - Lesson 15

The 7th Seal & The Trumpets - Revelation 8 & 9

Prayer: Lord, we have another dark episode in today's lesson, an episode filled with events & characters which are hard to comprehend.  I pray you would help us to trust you at your word, to believe that these things will happen, and to trust that they hold a purpose.  Help us to trust in You, to trust in Your Love, as we study things that startle & could potentially frighten us.  Amen!

Don't get hung up on understanding everything we're studying, accept that there will be some things that you won't understand.  I hope that if you find your lack of understanding frustrating it will inspire you to study more on the subject yourself.

The book of Revelation doesn't stand on its own, it stands on the full body of scripture, to understand it well you really need to have a good solid understanding of all the scriptures.  Many books of the Bible deal with the end of things, this is only one of them, and all can be difficult to attempt to interpret.

I am attempting to teach something that I admit I don't completely understand, but I am being faithful to try & to honestly teach you as best I am able.  Your part is to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, to study it for yourself & check anything I teach you against the whole of scripture.

Today we get to the 7th of 7 Seals being broken & bringing judgement, this is the final seal on the scroll held by Jesus & will bring about the 7 Trumpet judgements.

Revelation 8:1-5 - The 7th seal is broken & there is silence in heaven.  There is a sense that this is a silence of a serious nature, a solemn silence.  The 4 creatures & elders & angels are not praising & singing, there is a heavenly hush.

Is this God exercising His patience?  The 6th seal caused nature to react with a violent convulsion, enough to cause the most powerful men to be weak, was this pause a window of opportunity for repentance?  In Egypt, when God was sending plagues, during the plague Pharaoh would concede, then after the plague had finished Pharaoh would harden himself once again.  Will they take this opportunity to repent or will they use this time to explain away the events they experience?

Seven angels are standing before God, they were given seven trumpets, but before the trumpets are blown & the trumpet judgements begin another angel has a job to do.

The other angel is standing at the golden altar, the altar of incense, holding a censer.  The golden altar, in the earthly tabernacle, was inside the Holy Place, in front of the curtain to the Most Holy Place.  Incense in scripture typically symbolizes prayer, and this angel is given much incense to offer, with the prayers of the saints.  The smoke of the incense, along with the prayers, is rising to God.

What happens next is a little startling, the angel adds fire from the altar of incense to the censer & hurls it to earth.  When it is hurled there are thunders, rumblings, lighting, and an earthquake - the silence is over.  Are these the prayers of the martyrs (seal #5) soon to be answered?

Revelation 8:6-7 - Trumpet #1 - Hail & Fire & Blood are hurled down on the Earth & burn up 1/3 of the earth, 1/3 of the trees, and all the green grass.  We know from Exodus that this is not the first instance of hail & fire combined, but the blood is new.  What exactly is this?  We don't know, it may very well be exactly what it says it is - certainly the God who created these things can do with them what He likes.  It might be some sort of chemical hail that burns up and resembles blood.  In any case it is severely damaging to all the forests, to agriculture, and especially to grains (grains are grasses).

Revelation 8:8-9 - Trumpet #2 - something Like a Huge Mountain, Ablaze, is hurled into the sea.  The result is 1/3 of the sea is damaged, 1/3 of the sea creatures are killed, and 1/3 of the ships are destroyed.  This sounds like something we might describe as a massive meteorite, but again we just don't know.  If something that large were suddenly to impact an ocean a massive tsunami would likely occur - that might explain the loss of ships.  As far as it turning the sea to blood, I can only say that from Exodus we know water was turned to blood (or something like blood), again God is quite able.  In any case it is severely damaging to the seas & oceans of the world.

Revelation 8:10-11 - Trumpet #3 - a Great Star Blazing like a Torch falls from the sky and impacts the rivers & springs of water.  The result is 1/3 of the fresh water sources are made Bitter - poisonous & causing people to die.  The star is named "Wormwood", which causes some to thing that this falling star is actually a fallen angel - but that isn't necessarily the case, it could also be yet another type of heavenly object impacting the earth, we simply don't know.

Revelation 8:12 - Trumpet #4 - Something happens to the Sun, Moon, and Stars.  They are "struck" so that a 1/3 of the Sun, 1/3 of the Moon, and 1/3 or the stars aren't giving light.   The days are 1/3 without light, as are the nights.  This one has me stumped, there are some thoughts that it might be something cataclysmic that happens to the stars in the universe (including our Sun) cause (possibly) by changes in gravitational forces on them.  Are they damaged? Are they blocked? I don't know!

Revelation 8:13 - There's another short break in the action, but this is not a pause or rest, this is a harbinger of doom - 3 woes are about to strike the earth.  We are told that an Eagle is calling out, though some translations say Angel, so it's a bit unclear what this creature is - but he brings a strong warning.

Revelation 9:1-6 - Trumpet #5 - Ah, the "star that had fallen", in this case we are told that this is a creature since "he" had been given a key.  Many speculate that this is Satan, and it seems likely that this is a fallen angel (angels are sometimes called stars), but we're not given a specific identity.

This "star" opens the shaft of the Abyss.  What is the Abyss?  Remember when Jesus drove the demons out of the man called "Legion" (Luke 8), and they begged not to be sent to the Abyss?  That's the Abyss!  Some believe it to be located within the Earth itself, some who believe this are Scientists, again we simply don't know.  Smoke rises from this deep shaft, and out of this shaft come these strange locust creatures that come down upon the earth.

These locusts are not normal locusts - we're told here that they are given power like scorpions & that they aren't to harm the grass or plants or trees.  They have a job to do, they are to harm those who don't have God's seal on them.  Apparently they could inflict excruciating torturous pain, and people will want to kill themselves to escape the pain, but they are will be unable to kill themselves.  I can't imagine how awful that will be.

Revelation 9:7-12 - Now we get a more detailed description of these strange locusts.  They look like "horses ready for battle" - there are middle-eastern locusts today have this sort of appearance, horse-like in shape with plated bodies.  These demonic locusts have something like crowns, have human-like faces, have hair like a woman's (long hair), teeth like lions (sharp & pointed), and breastplates like iron.  Their wings make a thunderous sound - those middle-eastern locusts I mentioned can get quite large, some the size of mice, and when they swarm the sound is said to be deafening.  They also have tails & stings like scorpions, and the power of their tails (sting?) inflicts pain & suffering that they are allowed to use to torment people for 5 months.

These "locusts" have a king, this is another indication that they are not normal locusts since Proverbs 30:27 tells us locusts have no king.  Their king is the angel commander of the Abyss, a fallen angel whose name means "Destroyer".

The first woe passes, and there are 2 more ready to come.

Revelation 9:13-16 - Trumpet #6 - A voice from the horns of the golden altar commands the sixth angel to release the 4 angels bound at the river Euphrates.  Again these 4 angels are fallen angels, they have been held in this place for a specific purpose at a specific appointed time, to kill 1/3 of mankind.  During the 4th Seal 1/4 of man was killed, now an additional 1/3 of those remaining will be killed - that alone without considering the deaths caused by the other judgements would mean that 1/2 of the world's population at the start of the judgements will be dead at the completion of this trumpet.

How did they bring about the deaths of 1/3 of mankind?  It has something to do with this massive army, 200 Million strong.  Whether this is a human army that is demonically controlled, or a demonic army, we don't know.

Revelation 9:17-19 -  John attempts to give us a description of the army.  The army have breastplates, they ride on some sort of beast (or device?).

The "horses" have heads resembling lions, and tails that are snake-like with heads. From the mouths of the heads are propelled something like fire, smoke, and sulfur that kills the people.  In addition, the tails are able to inflict injury.

Revelation 9:20-21 - Those where aren't killed by the plagues are unrepentant.  They will worship demons & idols, and will refuse to repent of murder, sorcery, sexual immorality, or theft.  The specific word for sorcery or magic arts is "pharmakeion", we use the same root word to get our current word for pharmacy, and so the implication is that there will be rampant drug use.

Prayer:  Lord, what we've read today makes the stuff of science fiction & horror movies sound mild, yet we know that you are in control & that your love abounds.  Help us to reconcile these things, to understand that judgement must come, and to trust you with our lives & our futures.  Amen!!

Reflection & Prayer: 
  • Think about how twisted our world has become, the murder of babies in the womb is legal & subsidized, but the death penalty is under attack.  Innocents killed & killers protected.  Drug use is rampant, sorcery is not taken seriously.  Sexual morality is almost unknown in our world.
  • Think about God's justice, it is not pretty but it is necessary, His Holiness demands it.  People choose to come under God's judgment, God is patient & desires all to come to Him.
  • What is your response?

Take some time to pray with one another.