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Comfort in the midst of conflict: Revelation 8 to 11
Timothy J. Westendorf
Most are aware that this world is fraught with peril. People strive to protect themselves and their loved ones from physical harm. But how many live with an awareness of the ultimate threat to humanity?
The Lamb opens the seventh seal to reveal it . . . tick, tick, tick . . . 30 silent minutes pass, as if to say, “This is important! Pay attention!”
The first five trumpets
The final seal lifts the curtain on a new scene—a vision of seven angels with trumpets. The details are difficult, but the main message becomes clear if we keep some things in mind: Remember the words of Jesus about the coming end of the world (Matthew chapter 24). It is worth noting that the most important parts of his speech, which speaks of false teaching (false prophets and messiahs) and its devastating effects (spiritual deception, increase of wickedness, love growing cold), are missing from the first six opened seals.
The vision of the trumpets is ushered in by the opening of the final seal—another view of the future. Reading Matthew 24 and these chapters can show the connection. The seals and trumpets cover the same time frame, both ending with the last judgment, showing that these trumpet activities are happening alongside the physical calamities.
Many faithful Christians before us have seen in this vision a picture of false teaching and ungodly living from the time of Jesus’ ascension until his return. As you read about the first five trumpets (Revelation 8:6–9:12), focus on the truth that change or denial of God’s life-giving, light-giving Word causes the ultimate damage and destruction to people in our world.
The sixth and seventh trumpets
The sixth trumpet is rather extensive, covering multiple chapters (Revelation 9:13–11:14). We first hear of a vast and vicious army bent on destruction. Then John sees an angel whose description fits Jesus himself. Giving a scroll to eat depicts the receiving of God’s Word (cf. Ezekiel 3). The message of salvation in Christ brings sweet comfort to the believer’s soul. It also becomes the source of sour discomfort when the gospel and its messengers are ridiculed and rejected. Even so, John and all believers are called to speak the Word of Christ to the nations.
Important symbolic numbers are introduced in chapter 11 (1,260 days = 42 months = 3 and a half times/years). Being half of the covenant number 7, they seem to represent the full New Testament age where the truth of God’s Word is continually challenged by false teaching, false believers, and a hostile unbelieving world. Believers who share the truth will be few in number in comparison with the unbelieving world. But their surprising influence and effectiveness is because they speak the powerful Word of God.
Many times throughout history, God’s Word is all but muted, even in the visible church. The two witnesses, who represent this ongoing reality, remind us of God’s faithfulness. Their death seems to show that, toward the end, Satan will be allowed to virtually silence God’s truth altogether. But by God’s grace, it will be a short time.
In the very end, God’s Word and its faithful witnesses are vindicated, a comfort to which we cling. The seventh trumpet sounds, and the end comes.
Reflect on Revelation chapters 6 and 7
- Why is fighting for the truth of God’s Word so difficult, yet so important?
First, because “salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Second, God loves all humans, and Jesus has come for all sinners. We are to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). That means we are to love others enough to share the one way to salvation. Third, Jesus has given us the means—the gospel, which is God’s power for salvation (Romans 1:16)—to turn hearts from unbelief to faith.
Although the plagues are dreadful, what does Revelation 9:20,21 reveal about part of God’s intent?In spite of the horror and dread of these plagues, they did not turn people from their unbelief. The people were judged for their rejection of God and his Word. God sent the plagues for that reason, but he also intended that they would repent of their evil and rebellion against God. His love was still in those terrible judgments as he held out an invitation to turn to him in faith and receive the blessings he provided through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.
- Where will we find strength,encouragement, and comfort in that battle?In God’s words to us in the Bible. Here’s one example: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9). Consider Psalm 46 or other passages. Do you have a favorite?
Contributing editor Timothy Westendorf is pastor at Abiding Word, Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
This is the fifth article in as 12-part series on the book of Revelation. Find the article and answers online after Apr. 5.
Author: Timothy Westendorf
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019