Turnaround – Revelation 8:6-9:21 – Pastor Joshua Scott
Jesus judges all, but He calls all to repentance.
One day we will all experience His courtroom while at the mercy of His judgment for our souls… Every one of us judged for every wrongdoing, every sin ever committed, every idol we’ve ever had. And though we may want to hide in our guilt and our shame, scared of what our sentence might be, Jesus will look at us and see everything. He will see everything in our lives clearly as bright as day. At the same time, Jesus offers a way out. He says turn away from your old ways, your sins, your idols, and commit yourselves to Me. Know Me as God and believe in your hearts that I am Lord... My hope is that no one would hear the essence of the message and hear condemnation but hear mercy and grace.
And that brings us to the central truth of God’s Word… Jesus judges all, but He calls all to repentance. Jesus will one day judge us and the entire world. It’s not a question of if but when as we learned earlier on in Revelation. And while we could never deserve any mercy or earn in any way a relationship with God, Jesus offers us His mercy by His grace in the gospel. Jesus offers us the way of repentance right here and now through Himself.
So how can we begin to unpack this idea and be stirred in our affections for Him? This brings us to our first point…
1. Jesus is the Lord and Judge of nature. 8:6-13 If Jesus truly is the Lord and Judge of all, that means that beyond humanity He is also Lord of all nature, all the earth and the whole universe. If He’s the Lord and Judge of nature, then He truly is in control of all things including but not limited to the fate of our lives.
What’s going on here? It seems like it’s the end of the world!... Well it makes sense. We are in Revelation which talks about the end times. We don’t know when it will happen but these descriptions at least give us a general idea of what will happen when it gets here.
We see the first four angels blowing these trumpets that call forth judgment on nature. In verse 7 we see the trumpet calling forth hail and fire mixed with blood falling onto the earth and burning up a third of the earth. Yet it’s the imagery here that’s reminiscent of God’s judgment on Egypt. The 7th Plague – God judged Egypt when Moses stretched his staff towards the sky and God brought down thunder, hail and lightning to the ground (Ex. 9:23). The reference to the blood could be interpreted as the color of the storm instead of the destruction that the storm would cause drawing from Joel’s prophecy of the last days. (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:19). But like the plagues of Egypt, this was a warning – a call to turn towards God.
Then the second Angel sounds their trumpet and then a huge mountain on fire crashes into the ocean that destroys a third of all living creatures in the water and a third of all ships! Again, this reminds us of God’s plagues on Egypt. It seems like there’s some intentional mirroring going on between Egypt and the end times here.
Then the third angel sounds his trumpet and a great star falls from the sky onto rivers and springs of water – water and food sources for people, and it poisons the water and people are killed from drinking it. Again, like the first plague, another warning and call to repent.
Last but not least of the four trumpets bringing destruction to nature, the fourth trumpet brings darkness to the world. A third of all things that give us natural light are darkened – the sun, moon and stars. Like Egypt’s 9th plague that spreads darkness over the land for three days, a third of the world’s light would be gone in this instance (Ex. 10:21-23). This judgment then can act as a connection from the warnings here to the demonic woes that follow; foreshadowing the final separation between unbelieving humanity and God and the punishment that follows.
Then verse 13 makes the transition to the final 3 trumpets even clearer, 13 Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” Three times the eagle warns the world for each woe to come. No longer are the plagues directed at nature but now at humanity.
This should lead us to repentance because Jesus is the Lord and Judge of nature. Because He is Lord and Judge over nature, He is the Lord and Judge over humanity too, which leads us to our 2nd point…
2. Jesus is the Lord and Judge of humanity. 9:1-21 Jesus is not only the Lord and Judge of nature, but He is also the Lord and Judge of humanity. Whether we believe in Him or not, Jesus is the ultimate Judge and Lord over all nature and all peoples.
Unlike the first four trumpets, John goes into detail with the fifth trumpet and also unlike the first four trumpets calling forth plagues on nature, the final 3 trumpets call forth plagues directly onto humanity. While people were merely made uncomfortable before, now they are tormented head on.
Chapter 9 verse 1, the fifth angel blows his trumpet and a star-angel falls from heaven to earth with a key. It’s not clear who this angel is but like all of the angels in Revelation, he is an agent of God’s will. Matter of fact, John says the angel was given a key to open the “bottomless pit” in ESV or “abyss” in NIV.
There’s an immense amount of smoke; then out of the smoke comes a plague of killer locusts like scorpions. However, unlike how locusts usually focus on eating up crops and nature like the plague on Egypt, this time they’re directed to attack people surprisingly. Through the Old Testament, the locust is a symbol of destruction. What’s frightening is that this time they’re not made to attack vegetation but people. It says everyone who does not have the seal of God on them, everyone who doesn’t believe, will be attacked as if stung by a scorpion. It gets so bad that they’ll even wish for death. Death would be a mercy at this point, but they won’t be able to find it.
Then John gives a frightening description of the locusts. I encourage you to read verses 7 to 12 in chapter 9 yourself if you want to learn more about them. But just know for now, that they’re some of the most bizarre things - they have human-like and animal-like qualities, they’re unnatural and they are built for cruelty. Instead of spending the remainder of our time here, I want us to look ahead to the 6th trumpet, the 2nd woe.
Now we’re in the thick of the 3 woes, the 6th angel blows his trumpet and a voice comes from a golden altar. In the Tabernacle and Temple of Jerusalem, the golden altar was the altar of incense, constructed like the altar here, which represents the prayers of God’s people. Atoning blood was applied to the horns and it’s from these horns that the voice is heard. In this scene, a consistent theme rises again: the prayers of God’s people play a significant role in the end times.
We don’t know who the angels are. Some may think they’re the same angels mentioned earlier on in 7:1 but they can readily not be. I lean more towards not because it says they were bound, then released so I’d think they were evil instead of good but either way, it’s not the main point. These angels are destined to kill a third of mankind. In some translations, instead of labeled as “mankind” the people judged here are called “the inhabitants of the earth”. This is a title for those people who oppose and are hostile to God, so believers are not included in this plague.
Then we see a huge demonic cavalry sweeping across the earth along with the 4 angels. Twice ten thousand times ten thousand! Trying to add up these numbers misses the point – it’s sufficient to know there’s an incalculable number of troops.
Their breastplates were colored like fire, sapphire and sulfur - red, blue and yellow to match the fire, smoke and sulfur coming out of the horses’ mouths. The heads of the horses were like lions and their tails like snakes, again another demonic and cruel creature like the locusts earlier. And it’s not the riders who are doing the damage but the horses themselves as John says in verse 18.
The first woe brought torment but the second woe brings death. There have been plenty of warnings already that God uses to call people to repentance. Remember it’s only after all of these plagues and warnings that happen first before death is being used to judge the earth. So, while there will be plenty of calls to repentance in the end times, ultimately there will still be a judgment at the end of it all.
The end of chapter 9 reminds us of this sobering truth, that even with all the warnings in the world not everyone will listen, but while everyone will not listen, God is still good.
God is still good because even when were still living in our sin, living out of fear or self-gratification, Jesus still offers us Himself through His sinless life and sacrificial death on the cross, then by rising back to life from the grave. Jesus grants us mercy by forgiving us when we could never ever deserve forgiveness. Then He unites us with Himself before God so that one day, when the judgment day does come, we won’t be swept away by God’s judgment but called out and saved alongside the multitude of the chosen.
This is God’s grace and mercy to us. If you believe these words and confess with your heart that Jesus is Savior and Lord then you too will stand before God without fear of judgment in the end. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, not matter how you’ve lived your life to this point or where you come from, if you believe in your heart that Jesus is God and you surrender your life over to Him as Lord, there will forever be mercy and hope for you too.
Praise Singing: Lion and the Lamb, Let My Words Be Few / I Stand in Awe of You, Psalm 46, Cornerstone, Doxology